Charmaine Morgan’s column: Labour will fight to reduce the damage being done by cuts
On 22 October at Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) councillors were given presentations by senior county officers.
They forecast a staggering shortfall of over £30m in funding to the county council.
The Government has also placed more statutory responsibilities with LCC. Then cut the associated budget. Public health is one example of this. LCC has been restructuring, cutting services and building reserves for years. There is little meat left on the bone. There are consequences. LCC now rely heavily on private contractors, who have to make a profit to survive so managing contract terms and conditions well is vital.
Trading Standards were one of the first departments to be hit. Fewer checks are made on the standards of the places we eat out, the food we eat and the goods that we buy. LCC cut back on funding for services such as support for vulnerable children and young families with Home Start lost and Meals on Wheels providing food at home to the elderly stopped.
Fire services are now more reliant on retained officers, target response times in rural areas reduced and services in Lincoln cut. Libraries (despite objections from over 22,000 people) now rely on volunteers on a shoestring budget. Our public buildings such as former children’s homes and care homes in Grantham and the former Bourne Town Hall are being sold off.
Our county is at greater risk from coastal flooding as we now rely on match funding for sea defences at a time global warming threatens. The overall impacts of cut and risks were already mounting.
Officers examined where further cuts could be potentially made. This could include a further review of our fire stations and engines, removing PCSOs from our streets, charging more for non-statutory services to higher income elderly people, challenging hospitals to keep patients in longer, switching off street lights, halting any road improvement schemes other than those already ring-fenced, reducing speed limits rather than filling potholes, selling off our county archives – yet they still may not save enough to make up the £30m funding shortfall. The silence was deafening.
The Labour Group argues there are funds in LCC reserves squirrelled away. Now is surely the time to save key services. Our LAs may be better able to use heritage assets and infrastructure to generate income and improve economic development too but not if they become undermined by poor planning or sold off. We will have to see if local Conservatives listen. But should our councils be faced with this dilemma?
The Conservative Government has still failed to spell out exactly where their radical cuts will fall. At election time they left it to voters and the opposition to try and work out for themselves. Labour will fight to reduce the damage being done. As local Labour councillors look at our alternative budget proposals, we want to hear what concerns you most. Please contact me on 01476 574748 or email firstname.lastname@example.org