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