Graham Jones

Hyn­d­burn MP

Accrington Observer - - YOUR VIEWS -

GOVERN­MENT aus­ter­ity has gone too far.

When I left Hyn­d­burn Coun­cil they had a day to day bud­get of £17m and an an­nual in­vest­ment (cap­i­tal) bud­get of £13m. A to­tal bud­get of £30m. Around £5m is funded by col­lect­ing coun­cil tax. £25m pro­vided by cen­tral govern­ment.

In­fla­tion since 2010 stands at 21 per cent so £30m is now equal to £36m - just to stand still.

The coun­cil’s bud­get in 2017 cur­rently stands at around £10.6m - or 29 per cent of what it was in 2010. A stag­ger­ing cut.

The govern­ment did promise in 2010 aus­ter­ity would end in 2015 but poor eco­nomic man­age­ment has re­sulted in Hyn­d­burn Coun­cil facing large re­duc­tions in Cen­tral Govern­ment sup­port for the next three years up to 2021.

Next year the coun­cil must find sav­ings of £1.7 mil­lion in 2018-2019 year, a 16 per cent re­duc­tion. In 2019-2020 the coun­cil must save a fur­ther £946,000 or a fur­ther 9 per cent. In 2020-2021 due to to­tal end­ing of all cen­tral Govern­ment sup­port to Hyn­d­burn Bor­ough Coun­cil, the coun­cil will need to find a fur­ther £1.9 mil­lion of sav­ings, a fur­ther 18 per cent cut.

The £1.25m an­nual re­bate I per­suaded the govern­ment to give Hyn­d­burn Bor­ough Coun­cil in 2013 will have gone.

If there is any ‘ex­tra’ spend­ing in Hyn­d­burn such as Ac­cring­ton town cen­tre, it is com­ing from out­side fund­ing. In this case a sig­nif­i­cant amount is pro­vided by the Her­itage Lot­tery. It’s a beg­ging bowl strat­egy.

Con­stituents write to me sin­cerely hop­ing that I can con­vince coun­cil­lors to u-turn on one cut or an­other.

I wish the Coun­cil would not bring in ris­ing sports pitch costs. I loathe the re­cent pol­icy of steep rises in pitch charges over­turn­ing the heav­ily sub­sidised pitch charges I brought in in 2007. To ask for them to find the money is un­re­al­is­tic.

Al­ter­na­tively I do want to look to see if there is a dif­fer­ent way of sav­ing money in this par­tic­u­lar case.

The reality is with all th­ese coun­cil cuts is there is no choice and more pain is to come. Land must be dis­posed of, coun­cil ser­vices where pos­si­ble trans­ferred to the cheaper vol­un­tary and char­ity sec­tor who have greater ac­cess to out­side fund­ing. We are see­ing that with Highams. The pain goes on.

At the same time in­ter­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions are get­ting huge tax cuts, coun­cil cuts be­ing a choice. The govern­ment are also choos­ing to pro­tect south­ern coun­cils from any cuts. Pay­ing bil­lions of pounds to coun­cils to build homes - pre­dom­i­nantly in the south. Stop­ping the na­tional re­dis­tri­bu­tion of busi­ness rates and in­stead al­low­ing lo­cal coun­cils to keep all the busi­ness rates they col­lect - favour­ing Lon­don and the eco­nom­i­cally pros­per­ous south again and stop­ping re­dis­tri­bu­tion to the north.

Lan­cashire county coun­cil has suf­fered sim­i­larly, though hand on heart they are not man­aged any­where near as well as Hyn­d­burn Bor­ough Coun­cil. How­ever, their prob­lems re­main the deep cuts.

Hyn­d­burn Bor­ough Coun­cil (re­gen­er­a­tion, refuse, waste, parks, plan­ning, open spa­ces, coun­cil tax col­lec­tion, IT) re­ceives and spends 15 per cent of coun­cil tax col­lected, LCC 72 per cent (schools, roads, social care). The rest goes to Po­lice and Fire.

Ul­ti­mately coun­cil­lors are go­ing to have to put coun­cil tax up. I don’t be­lieve this is a choice but a ne­ces­sity.

I have raised th­ese is­sues with lo­cal Con­ser­va­tives but they seem to have lit­tle idea what they would do.

One ques­tion that ought to be asked is this. What did the Con­ser­va­tive Coun­cil when they were in power in Hyn­d­burn (1998-2011) do with £36m??

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