It has been a really bad day for the people I represent as a County Councillor in Hitchin.
It was County Council Budget day and we are of course faced with massive Local Government cuts from a Government that doesn’t seem to understand the importance of the services we are obliged to deliver such as Child Protection, Education, Social Services, Adult Social Care and Highway maintenance.
But there are imaginative ways of dealing with these problems and so the County Labour Group presented a fully costed alternative budget which would have amongst other things:
- Restored proper night lighting to those streets and communities who would prefer this
- Ensured that buses were available for those who need them for work and leisure at a time when we should be discouraging the use of cars for every journey
- Re-instated support for the incredibly valuable work of Homestart Home visiting and family groups, supporting the most vulnerable families
The Council Tax this year will have to rise by 3.9% and for that there will be no improvements in services, just more cuts year on year.
One of the ways that local County Councillors have been able to make a small difference has been through their Locality Budgets of £10,000 per year. These have enabled us to give to support directly in our communities to those who most need it: as an example in the last year I have been able to help a Homestart Family Group to re-establish itself in Westmill, support a Sunday bus route around the whole town, support extra activities in schools such as Young Enterprise, local Rape Crisis groups, Hitchin British Schools and many many others.
Now the County Tories have decided to cut this funding in half. At a stroke, despite our putting forward well-reasoned arguments about the considerable local importance of this money to local organisations. It is almost the meanest cut so far and seems based on the fact that apparently some of their own County Councillors represent such well-heeled places that there are very few organisation that need to be helped in this way. That is certainly not true in Hitchin and I am desperately sorry that I won’t be able to give the help that has been available for the past 3 years.
Which brings me to my final point. It does seem as though my Labour colleagues, mainly representing urban areas of the County with greater issues to face are those most affected by this cruel and unnecessary move. I have tried to ponder at why this has happened and whilst not wanting to appear too cynical it is just a year until the next County Council elections. Could it be that the Tories want to make it as hard as possible for Labour County Councillors to make a difference in their communities? For electoral advantage in 2017?
I really do hope that I am wrong
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