Monday, March 1, 2010

BBC Report on local council cuts.

The BBC is currently running articles on councils having to cut services and jobs. Most of this is about County Council services. So what about Huntingdonshire District Council? This Council is already looking at a £6.1 million deficit. If Central Government cuts grants to the District Council this will make this dire situation much worse.
Many people point to the new rather large building in Huntingdon as the cause of the deficit. But this isn't the problem. The underlying problem has been the Conservative run Council keeping their portion of the Council Tax far too low. The projected 2010/11 deficit is £4.7 million. With 58,580 council tax base this equates an extra £80.23 on Band D average property. Instead of £124.17 the amount that HDC should be taxing us at Band D is £204.40.

So what would need to be cut? The council has got many duties and responsibilities it has to perform as part of legislation imposed by Parliament. But there are some services which a Council doesn't have to do. Leisure Centres, Parks, Countryside and Car Parks are services HDC doesn't have to do. These could be given to the Town/Parish Councils to run. Town/Parish tax rates would rise to take account of these extra responsibilities.

Looking back, HDC has been burning the bridges with the Town and Parish Councils. The Cabinet stopped the Parish Charter. Devolution of services was stopped. This is not a Council with an overall strategy. It is a Council taking decisions on the hoof.

Some of the blame of this position must be laid at the door of this rotten Labour Government and their underfunding of HDC. Most of the blame must be laid at the floor of the Conservatives who should have taken decisions over services instead of just adding this to the deficit.

So what can HDC do?

The basic problem is HDC has to decide what services it can afford to provide in the future and to what standard.

Leisure Centres - The creation of a Leisure Trust would have made sense a decade ago and could have made considerable savings. Now the problem is acute. HDC cannot afford these centres. If local taxpayers want these centres to continue they will have to pay extra tax. In the case of St Neots this would mean an extra £65 on the band D average.

Parks - Riverside and Priory Park would have to come under Town Council control. This would be roughly £80 extra on the band D average in St Neots to keep the land up to current standard.

Countryside - I cannot identify any costs to St Neots. But how some of the open spaces are governed may mean a cost to St Neots.

Car Parks - These are revenue earners and need to be so to keep up with the capital that needs to invest. This could cut the band D average by £20. There are many variables in these calculations.

snrednek says: With more cuts looming after the General Election, HDC should be making decisions right now. The strategy of wait and see isn't working. Opportunities to get the Town/Parish Councils onside have been thrown away. Burning bridges with those who can help you out is not the best way for the residents of HDC. Spending £16 million of reserves on propping up the budget is wrong. This money has to be used to get the services HDC will no longer be able to afford provided by others. Spend the reserves and this is a totally wasted opportunity.

I see the only option which is to get rid of this Conservative administration and get someone else into power instead. This is why I'm voting Liberal Democrat at the local elections on 6th May 2010.

In the meantime, it is a pity HDC cannot be bothered to hold a conversation with residents over the problems it faces including what services that need to go.

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