Sunday, 19 December 2010

Anger at ‘hidden’ funding cuts - Local - Bury Free Press

Anger at ‘hidden’ funding cuts - Local - Bury Free Press

At last the penny has dropped! Local Conservative councillors have awoken to the fact that Eric Pickles is waging fiscal war on councils.

There is even a note of bitterness and despair in the words of the Mid-Suffolk councillor, Derrick Hailey: “We’re the best council in the country for efficiency savings but there comes a time when you have to ask where do we go from here?”

Exactly … where do we go from here? The answer has to be: not where we are being led by Eric Pickles! The vicious cuts in government grants and the centrally imposed freeze on council tax levels will seriously restrict the powers of local authorities and has the potential to decimate services and staffing levels. So much for local democracy and Tory rhetoric on decentralisation and empowering the community.

Pickles is preventing the one opportunity which might alleviate the pain of the cuts, which is to allow some local discretion to tax and spend. But we are not to be permitted to enjoy the privileges and functions that most democratic communities across Europe are allowed.

Community empowerment costs money. If Pickles was a true localist, rather than an ideologue intent on dismantling the State, he would extend councils’ financial autonomy. Councils should be allowed to look for alternative sources of revenue. For example, from tourist taxes like in some other European countries.

Local Tory councillors must stand up for local residents. If they truly believe in local democracy they will tell Mr Pickles, with his weighty central directives, that enough is enough.

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