Thursday, December 31, 2009

Conversation with the residents?

I noticed this ITN report about the Canadian experience. I feel our Councils (County, District and Town) must start a conversation with the residents they serve on the forthcoming cuts.

St. Neots needs to decide what it wants to do! The Public Toilets is just one service which HDC provides which the Town Council is also empowered to provide (link to TC powers). For instance both Councils provide Play areas and open spaces. HDC provides car parks which SNTC is empowered to do. Other services the Town Council can provide (and sometimes does):

Bus Shelters
Sports Centres
Swimming Pools
Christmas Lights
and more.

What HDC needs is a formal agreement with the Parishes and Towns. Something like the Parish Charter which HDC dismissed. This would allow a formal agreement between the HDC and Parishes on who provides which area of services. This cannot be a one way street with all the expense coming to the Town/Parishes and HDC keeping the income.

There is a looming problem over finances at all levels of Government. District and County Councils partly rely on money raised by central Government to provide statutory services. This is very likely to be cut. In the coming years our Council Tax will go up and services will go down. Decisions need to be made on what services need to be cut. There needs to be a decision on the standard of the remaining services.

What also needs to be decided is who will provide the services and tax residents. Our Councils do need to put this across to the residents. What is happening at County will effect Hunts DC. What Hunts DC decides will effect the Town.

As the ITN report points out each different Canadian province approached their financial crisis in a different way. British Columbia upped taxes to maintain services. Neighbouring Alberta cut services back to what could be afforded from income. Not only do our national politicians need to talk to the population about what we can afford in the future. Our local politicians must do the same and talk to the residents about the choices that need to be taken in St. Neots and Huntingdonshire. The obvious rule for the foreseeable future is: "Taxes will go up, services will be cut!".

Whilst the County Council has started talking about the cuts needed in their propaganda magazine, that was it.  The residents don't seemed to be involved nor is there any explanation as to where the cuts would fall. Nor did this happen in the September District Wide propaganda magazine.

Our Councils need to have a conversation with the residents over taxes and services. So far this hasn't happened. Currently, the Conservative run HDC is cutting public toilets and is using a ruse to blame the Town Councils for the withdrawal of the HDC service. Time the Councils had a mature conversation  about who does what rather than a Conservative stealth tax on St. Neots.

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