Gov­ern­ment cuts ‘will be big chal­lenge for coun­cil’

Leader says main­tain­ing bor­ough ser­vices in 2016 will be tough

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

THE leader of Hilling­don Coun­cil is pre­dict­ing stormy weather this year as gov­ern­ment cuts to lo­cal author­ity bud­gets bite.

Ray Pud­di­foot, who heads the bor­ough’s Tory ad­min­is­tra­tion, ad­mit­ted that his party in gov­ern­ment was likely to pro­vide the ma­jor chal­lenges this year through the bud­get, HS2 and a pos­si­ble Heathrow ex­pan­sion.

He said cre­at­ing school places and main­tain­ing green spa­ces would also be key lo­cal is­sues, when asked by the Gazette for his thoughts on the chal­lenges that lay ahead in 2016.

Cllr Pud­di­foot said: “I think with all lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, the fi­nan­cial chal­lenges that we’ll face will be huge.

“We’re just be­gin­ning to get the set­tle­ment de­tails through from Ge­orge Os­borne’s au­tumn state­ment and what he’s done is front­loaded the cuts to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

“In Hilling­don, we’re very well placed. We haven’t in­flicted the cuts on li­braries and ser­vices that other au­thor­i­ties have done, so our chal­lenge for the com­ing year is to main­tain this.”

He said he hopes that ‘com­mon sense will pre­vail’ when it comes to na­tion­wide is­sues af­fect­ing the bor­ough.

“With HS2, I hope our MPs see that rather than wast­ing money on a rail­way that no­body really wants, they’ll spend the money on projects we do want across the coun­try.

“And with the third runway, there is the non­sen­si­cal po­si­tion of the Davis com­mis­sion which says ‘we want you to build a third runway but you can’t use it un­til you can meet the air qual­ity con­di­tions’.

“How silly is that? Why would you build it then not use it? There’s no chance of them meet­ing the air qual­ity con­di­tions. There’s a six month de­lay, but they won’t do it in six years, it’s non­sense.”

With the draft bud­get for 2016/17 re­leased be­fore Christ­mas, Cllr Pud­di­foot says the bor­ough is on track, but with £5 mil­lion to find.

He added: “It’s not get­ting any eas­ier year on year, and it’s pretty galling, in a way, that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are be­ing asked to shoul­der a huge por­tion of the na­tional debt when the gov­ern­ment is go­ing to be friv­o­lous with projects like HS2.

“We’re not in charge of the wind, but we can set the sails.”

An­other politi­cian with a big year ahead is Hayes and Har­ling­ton MP John McDon­nell, who en­ters 2016 as shadow chan­cel­lor Labour

in leader Jeremy Cor­byn’s team.

Sin­gling out hous­ing as a big is­sue, he said: “The lo­cal hous­ing cri­sis is get­ting worse.

“Ris­ing house prices and rents are making it al­most im­pos­si­ble for peo­ple to get on the hous­ing lad­der or se­cure a de­cent roof over their heads.

“Gov­ern­ment cuts to lo­cal coun­cil fund­ing and the NHS mean that the care of the el­derly and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in our com­mu­nity is com­ing un­der in­tense pres­sure.

“The weak­en­ing of plan­ning con­trols over the green belt by the gov­ern­ment also means that we will be bat­tling again to pro­tect our lo­cal green open spa­ces.”

Mr McDon­nell said the fight to save the Heathrow vil­lages from de­mo­li­tion, to make way for a third runway, would in­ten­sify this year, but he pre­dicted that the com­mu­nity would ‘rise suc­cess­fully to meet the chal­lenge’.

n TOUGH YEAR: Coun­cil leader Ray Pud­di­foot says Hilling­don is fac­ing a num­ber of chal­lenges this year

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