Thursday, 4 December 2014

More on cuts at "County Hall"

In this week’s Cornish Guardian, I addressed the recent spate of cuts agreed by Cornwall Council. It was as follows:

In the very same week that Cornwall Council voted through a series of massive cuts, the leaders of 119 English councils banded together to demand “no more cuts” by the Coalition.

In a letter to a prominent Sunday newspaper, the council leaders warned: “Funding for services provided by councils has borne the brunt of austerity while demand continues to rise. When the chancellor delivers his autumn statement this Wednesday, ‘more of the same’ cannot be an option.”

They pointed out that many councils have already suffered a 40% reduction in funding since 2010. They added: “Further reductions … will lead to vital services being scaled back or lost altogether. Services such as libraries, leisure centres and road maintenance continue to buckle under the strain of cuts and the ever-rising cost of caring for our growing elderly population. Failure to address this will not only jeopardise other services, but will pass costs on to the NHS, which will have to pick up the pieces if we cannot protect adult social care or provide the services that keep people healthy.”

The scale of the concern is shown by the fact that forty of the council leaders were Conservatives and ten were Liberal Democrats – each speaking out against the actions of their own Government.  

But they need to do so much more than just sign a collective letter.

Politicians from Westminster’s Coalition parties must be much more forceful in demanding that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats put an end to the cuts. They could, for example, threaten the mass resignation of councillors from Coalition parties unless drastic changes are made.

Last week was indeed a terrible week to be at County Hall.

The majority of Cornwall Councillors voted for four-year budget plan, which included a total of £196 million of cuts – largely because of the callous and totally disproportionate level of cuts to local government from central government.

Council tax will rise by 1.97% in 2014/2015 – a figure which is just below the 2% threshold which would have led to a referendum on the issue – and hundreds of jobs will also be lost.

The four MK councillors did not support the proposed budget, but were among thirteen councillors who supported an amendment to seek a referendum on a council tax increase of 6%. It was opposed by 99 councillors.

It was our view that the additional £9 million of funding would have helped to partially offset some of the damaging cuts being forced on Cornwall, for example, in adult social care, children’s services and one-stop-shops/libraries.

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