It must be election time!

22 Jan 2024
Look of surprise

Our attention was caught by two pieces of news that appeared at the weekend

First we had Chancellor Jeremy Hunt hinting at tax cuts in the spring budget. He is reported as saying "We Conservatives have always known that, of course - but it is worth remembering. The plan is working. That's why we need to stick to it. It means cutting taxes, not raising them." This from the party that has bought us the highest tax rates since the 1950s and the collapse in public services caused by a decade of cuts and under-investment.

Then more bizarrely today more than 40 Conservative MPs have written to the Prime Minister to demand more funding for councils in England to avoid deep cuts to services and prevent more councils going bust amid a £4bn funding shortfall. These MPs are the very same ones who have voted for Tory budgets which have seen funding per head drop in real terms by over 50% over the past 8 years in Districts and Shires such as our own. A number of Tory and Labour councils have already declared bankruptcy with many others teetering on the brink.

What seems to bind these two contradictory stories together is the fact we are now in a General Election year and the Conservatives are thrashing around trying to come up with eye-catching promises that might reduce the scale of their impending electoral defeat.

Whilst it is reassuring that electoral reality may be driving a more realistic assessment of the damage Conservative economic policy is doing to the wider economy and to local government services it really is too late to acknowledge what we and others have been saying for some time

Here in Babergh the consequences of this under-funding are being felt as we speak. Our Council is looking at a £1.8m deficit it needs to close. All sorts of options are on the table including the possibility of introducing car parking charges given that the costs of free parking appear to be around £425k ( of which £290k goes to the government in business rates!) of the identified deficit. We hope ways are found to avoid the need to introduce the charge which was originally suggested in the days our Council was run by the Conservatives

It really is a bit rich to hear local Conservatives campaigning against the charge without being clear how they would fund the gap. Maybe instead of politicking locally they should support their MP colleagues who are calling for more generous funding of local government


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