More Austerity For LCC
January 18th 2016
A pothole on the Crescent, High Holme Road
Potholes on Monk's Dyke Road
Potholes on St Bernard's Avenue
On Monday, 18th January a public engagement meeting took place in Louth Town Hall to give people a chance to express their opinions on the county council's plans for cuts. The council is looking at a vast reduction in the revenue support grant given to it by central government, coupled with rising cost pressures in a number of areas. This means it needs to make savings in the region of £42 million to balance its budget. The meeting began with a presentation by officers Pete Moore and David Forbes, who laid out the detail of council finances and the scale of the challenge. A few key points stood out.
Cuts are liable to affect every part of the county council's services. However, they recently ran a survey and the feedback so far indicates that people are keen to protect pothole filling and roads maintenance, winter gritting, road safety work, funding for PCSOs, and accommodation for people at risk of homelessness. Unfortunately people who filled in the survey were less keen to protect the following:
Feel the burnLCC's leader, Councillor Martin Hill, chaired the meeting and took questions from the public. The meeting was well-attended but not packed, and it seemed like everyone else in town was in the ballroom doing Clubcercise whilst this was going on. Councillor Hill didn't look very comfortable whilst people asked about street lighting, bus service cuts, potholes, high officer pay, libraries for job search, transforming to a unitary authority, and other issues. There are huge cuts coming, and there was no hiding the fact that they will be painful.
For some reason there was a large contingent from Tetford, so the discussion focused a lot on the future of the Call Connect service and rural bus subsidies.
The most revealing thing Councillor Hill said, and he repeated it more than once, was that these cuts are a "temporary" measure meant to rebalance the economy.
Sorry, but no. We're five years and eight months into the austerity programme. If things were going to get better they would have already improved, and we wouldn't be obliged to embark on the most swingeing cuts local government has yet had to endure. It's time for Tories to admit that the promised recovery isn't coming, that we'll be forever jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, but never jam today. It's time to admit austerity is a false economy, and a disguise for turbo-charged inequality.
Libraries are one of the foundations of our civilisation, making literature and learning accessible to all. It was interesting though that Luke Goodwin didn't talk about books when he brought up libraries, but instead mentioned the computers which people can use for job searches.
In terms of community grants, although many people think of them in terms of fixing village halls and similar projects, in Louth recently county councillor grants have been used to provide reactive speed signs. In other words, something that could potentially save lives. So it's hard to categorise council spending into essential and non-essential, when so-called non-essential spending can go towards something that protects the public. Even PCSO spending has been designated as something the council doesn't have to spend money on, but protecting people from crime is surely the kind of service it would be wrong to cut.
No Plan B?A man called Marcello (I didn't catch his last name) brought up a scenario where all the worst cuts went through and things fell apart. "Is there a Plan B?" he asked.
"No. I don't think there is a Plan B," Councillor Hill replied.
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