Grantham Journal column: ‘We must challenge the Government and hold ministers to account’

LCC and SKDC Labour Councillor Charmaine Morgan
LCC and SKDC Labour Councillor Charmaine Morgan

The true impact of the Government’s ‘austerity’ measures, not revealed before the General Election, are now becoming clear.

This week at Lincolnshire County Council’s community and public safety scrutiny committee we reviewed plans to raise LCC council tax by 3.95 per cent, which includes a 2 per cent precept for adult social care.

This means, regardless of income, all local residents will be required to pay more, in effect, for fewer council services, and, to support our elderly population. Despite this, there will be significant cuts to LCC’s budget whilst there is increased pressure in demand on council services and rising costs.

The committee is responsible for the scrutiny of important areas including the provision of Trading Standards, community safety, Fire and Rescue services, library services and public health services. Unlike other council departments, the majority of services scrutinised by the committee, do not have ‘ring-fenced’ budgets and are not protected from cuts. So the axe will fall harder here.

For example, at a time when we have faced flooding nationally and an increase in flooding is predicted, the budget for our Fire and Rescue service faces cuts. Other cuts include those for programmes to improve public health, and protection from potentially dangerous counterfeit, contaminated or mis-sold goods through Trading Standards. Not only this year but for the next two years at least.

Important projects, including those supporting fitness, may only be protected until lottery fund clawback agreements run out.

LCC councillors have lobbied the Government and local MPs to plead for more rather than less funding as we face increased demands, particularly with a rural ageing population reliant on our support. However, this Government appears determined to make cuts with no real consideration of the consequences.

Worse, the austerity measures we face are not equally shared as the top 5 per cent income earners have seen their incomes double whilst the poorest have suffered most. Other services including our NHS and welfare services, despite Government statements to the contrary, are also being targeted for cuts and so the fragmentation and destabilisation of all the safety nets and infrastructure we have created over the last century weakens.

Anyone daring to challenge the austerity measures is targeted and called radical by a billionaire-owning, national, right-wing media so entwined with the Conservative administration that it acts as a propaganda machine.

The power of veto in the House of Lords is now under threat, too. It is vital, (like junior doctors who have refused planned changes to their terms and conditions and salaries), that we challenge what the Government is doing and hold ministers to account.