Dire sav­ings an­nounced by County Coun­cil pre­dictable and mean we will pay more for less

Rossendale Free Press - - The Rossendale Scribbler -

A COU­PLE of weeks ago, this col­umn pre­dicted dire sav­ings announcements from Lan­cashire County Coun­cil in the weeks to come. As so it came to pass. But be­fore you seek Satur­day’s lot­tery num­bers from me, it’s worth point­ing out that, in hind­sight, it was less of a pre­dic­tion, more a state­ment of the bloom­ing ob­vi­ous.

Not that LCC’s rul­ing To­ries have re­ally wanted to talk about the cuts every­one knew would have to come, thanks to the bud­gets sets in West­min­ster, sup­ported by our lo­cal Tory MP, Jake Berry, and his Con­ser­va­tive col­leagues who have presided over eight years of aus­ter­ity.

Whereas as Labour­run LCC, as it was un­til last Sum­mer, never missed an op­por­tu­nity to talk about the tens of mil­lions of pounds of sav­ings made so far, the Tory-run LCC un­der Pre­ston coun­cil­lor Ge­off Driver has been much more muted in crit­i­cis­ing the £ 77m of cuts to bud­gets com­ing his way.

In­deed, Tory- run Sur­rey County Coun­cil threat­ened a tax rise of 15 per cent to cover short­falls, prompt­ing much po­lit­i­cal panic in West­min­ster and a slightly bet­ter fund­ing deal for all coun­cils for adult so­cial care.

But with the To­ries in charge at County Hall in Lan­cashire, the pol­icy ap­pears to be ‘take the medicine and try and smile’.

The cuts be­ing pro­posed by LCC are bleak.

They in­clude re­duc­tions in the num­ber of street lights op­er­at­ing in se­lected res­i­den­tial ar­eas, and cut­ting around 100 jobs.

But the worst cuts ap­pear to in­volve the county’s most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents.

Pro­pos­als have been un­veiled to move adults with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties from res­i­den­tial care into spe­cial­ist flats, re­duce the level of pay­ments which in­di­vid­u­als are al­lowed to build-up for un­ex­pected care needs from ten weeks to four and also to end the short break ser­vice for chil­dren with spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs.

Re­views of the vis­its paid to vul­ner­a­ble and el­derly to see if they can be done by just one per­son rather than two - thanks to un­con­firmed new tech­nol­ogy - also paint a bleak pic­ture for those who use their ser­vices.

Labour at the county coun­cil be­lieve the new cuts will cost lives.

The Lib Dems tried to speak out against the cuts at the Cab­i­net on Tues­day, but were si­lenced by Cllr Driver, us­ing the pow­ers his party forced through to all but si­lence mean­ing­ful de­bate at the de­ci­sion-mak­ing cab­i­net.

Cllr Driver has been ac­cused by Labour of lack­ing the bot­tle to stand up to his Tory bosses in Lon­don.

Labour claim LCC has lost half a bil­lion in fund­ing in the last decade.

Cllr Driver seemed equally as keen to keep any op­po­si­tion to his pro­posed cuts quiet too, judg­ing by video footage of the Cab­i­net meet­ing this week.

He says the coun­cil needs to be more busi­ness like.

It’s a well-worn phrase trot­ted out by politi­cians seek­ing to jus­tify cuts or dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions.

But LCC isn’t a pri­vate en­ter­prise owned by one man.

It’s an or­gan­i­sa­tion which needs to lis­ten to its cus­tomers - if that’s what we as en­forced tax pay­ers are.

On one hand, Cllr Driver tries to side­line any op­po­si­tion to his pro­pos­als on any­thing, but seems oddly quiet on the ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis be­ing caused by his fel­low party mem­bers in Lon­don. Why is that?

We de­serve an­swers - but in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate at County Hall, it’s highly un­likely we’ll get them.

After all, we’re just the peo­ple who pay more ev­ery year, for less.

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