Labour councillors responsible for keeping our streets clean and our libraries open are trying to kid the people of Sunderland that their failure is down to the ‘direct consequence’ of government cuts when the truth is more complicated and inconvenient for them.
No one would deny that financial reductions have to be made to reduce the largest peacetime deficit left by the last Labour Government which scuttled out of office leaving a note that said: ‘Sorry, there’s no money left.’ Sadly, some have forgotten this. Repetitively claiming that local cuts are a ‘direct consequence’ of decisions made in London is a smokescreen designed to deflect attention from the discretion councillors have in deciding their own budget and setting their own priorities for local services.
No one in the ‘Tory Government’ is telling Sunderland to close libraries or cut back on street cleaning.
These are choices made locally such as the decision to close nine libraries in the city whilst Gateshead, with the same funding formula, has closed just one.
Sunderland also suffers from local failure in terms of paltry income from parking, this year barely a fifth of that in Hartlepool, whilst Newcastle takes in millions every year which can be used to support the city and offset the effects of other reductions.
Local failure in Children’s Services has also hit the city’s finances hard with £4million having to be scraped together to make up for last year’s report which was the worst in the whole country.
This is a direct and costly consequence of weak leadership in the city.
But Labour councillors should not worry too much as they can easily get round the cuts by putting up the Council Tax.
The only difficulty here is that any rise above 2% would have to be put to the people who may then say ‘No’ on the basis that they disagree.
Coun Robert Oliver,
St. Michael’s Ward