Hove Lib Dem signs Times letter as parties wrangle about council cuts

Posted On 10 Feb 2011 at 7:04 pm

A Hove Liberal Democrat was among 88 members of his party in local government to write to The Times about cuts in council budgets.

Councillor Paul Elgood, who represents Brunswick and Adelaide on Brighton and Hove City Council, accepted the need for cuts but disagreed with the extent.

He said: “This is a strong message to the government that local services cannot be decimated as a result of the cuts.

“Yes, there is a need for rebuilding the economy after Labour’s poor management of it, but the extent of these cuts mean our residents will pay a heavy price for this now.”

The Lib Dems’ letter to The Times complains about one of the party’s coalition colleagues, the Conservative Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles.

The letter follows a debate in the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday 9 February) on funding for council services.

Another member of the council, Councillor Maria Caulfield, had a different take on the funding debate.

The Conservative councillor for Moulsecoomb and Bevendean said on her blog: “Lib Dem councillors are complaining about  local government settlements and they blame Eric Pickles for forcing them to cut frontline services.

“Well, my reply to that is

  • If you want to take on a role as a councillor then you also have to take on the responsibility that comes with it.
  • Saving money is not done by cutting budgets. You have to think bigger than that. We saved £150 million in our housing repairs just by procuring repairs differently.
  • It is too late to start looking for savings now. You missed the boat.

“We all knew over the last few years that, whoever got in to government, these cuts were coming.

“There was plenty of time to look at budgets and reduce costs so that there were reserves available to plug the financial gap.

“And sure in Brighton and Hove we have had to make tough decisions but through long-term financial planning we are not closing libraries and there are no large-scale redundancies.”

Mr Pickles said yesterday that Brighton and Hove would receive a grant worth 2.5 per cent of the sum raised from council tax.

The grant was being made because the council intended to freeze its council tax bills for residents in the coming financial year.

Councillor Warren Morgan, one of the Labour members for East Brighton, said: “It’s no coincidence that this freeze comes just three months before the local elections in the city and the real cuts by the Tories won’t appear till after polling day.

“That’s £30 million this year, £20 million next year, and £20 million the year after that.” 

Lib Dem letter

The full text of the Lib Dems’ letter is as follows.

“Local government is playing its part in tackling the country’s deficit and advancing the coalition’s key aims of localism and the big society. But local – and central – government are being badly let down by the Communities and Local Government Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, who appears incapable of leading the change that’s so desperately needed.

Local government has made efficiency savings of 3 per cent each year for the past eight years – in stark contrast to the runaway spending of central government under the previous administrations. We’ve also been planning for further saving – much further – since the true state of the economy became apparent six months ago.

“What Mr Pickles has delivered to the sector though is the most severe cuts package across all government departments and the most severe to the sector in living memory. These cuts will have a massive impact on all council services – including care services – and cannot be done without cuts to the frontline services and making forced redundancies.

“Rather than assist the country’s recovery by making savings to the public sector in a way that can protect local economies and the front line, Pickles’ savage cuts are structured in such a way that they will do the opposite. The local government settlement will take a massive hit in this coming financial year and further – smaller – cuts in subsequent years. This front-loading means councils do not have the lead-in time necessary to re-engineer services on a lower cost base and ease staff cuts without forced, expensive redundancies.

“Mr Pickles’ role should have been to facilitate necessary savings while at the same time facilitate the advance of localism and the big society. Unfortunately since the general election Eric Pickles and his department has proved itself incapable of either and is instead presenting his department as an expensive and irrelevant bureaucracy.

“Local government is united with central government on its agendas. We are both hampered though by Mr Pickles and his department which appears set on making the agenda fail. The hundreds of millions of pounds that the DCLG costs to run each year could be a big efficiency saving that would be far better spent on protecting council frontline services and delivering those services our communities need.”

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