A Conservative-led local authority has proposed a £4m cut in public services. But instead of saying the reduction in spending is ‘necessary’, the leader of the council has come out and criticised his own government over what he calls “unpalatable” cuts which could lead to a “day of reckoning” for the Conservatives.
Cut to the bone
Kent County Council has proposed a £4m cut to subsidised bus services. As Kent Live reported, if plans are passed, the council will be scrapping 74 bus routes across the county, reducing the number from 108 to just 34; a loss of 69% of current services.
The council leader, Paul Carter CBE, said that there are “unprecedented pressures” on the authority’s budget, but he recognised the cuts would be “unpalatable” to the public:
The population is growing, there are more elderly people who need help and support and more young people with high educational needs than ever before. There are unprecedented pressures on our budget and yet we are spending less money.
And while the council claims that, overall, the services affected only make up 3% of the total local bus mileage in the county, 14 of the routes, for example, are school services. Kent Live reported that 1.6 million journeys a year would be affected. And as the local News Shopper reported:
These new proposals would mean the loss of dozens of rural services and would leave some residents without access to hospitals with four hospital buses earmarked for the chop.
In a report, it [the council] says the cuts will have greater impact on the elderly and disabled people.
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But Carter is clear where he thinks the blame ultimately lies for the cuts: at the government’s door.
Kent Online reported that he told a meeting of the council’s cabinet in September that, regarding potential budget cuts:
I have enormous concerns about the impact next year. The elastic is being stretched to breaking point. There will be a day of reckoning if this continues… I have written to all our MPs setting out the consequences of next year’s budget on public services.
Our services are threatened and under pressure like never before. Unless these inequalities are addressed, many of the highly valued services to our public will diminish or disappear.
For too long now, the 26 million people in England’s shire counties have not received a fair share of national resources. This impacts on the daily lives on our residents, all whilst they [the government] unfairly subsidise services enjoyed in other parts of the country through higher council tax bills.
At the sharp end
Carter’s criticisms of his fellow Conservatives in government echo what many other councils are saying across the country. But his words should be taken with a pinch of salt. Because in July, his fellow Conservative councillors voted to give themselves a 15% pay rise.
Meanwhile, those who can least afford it are the ones suffering due to Conservative austerity – both at national and local level.
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