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??