At the Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) budget setting meeting on the evening of 23.2.2011, Liberal Democrat group leader, Robin Parker, made clear that the blame for the local and regrettable cuts in local government services in Stevenage was the clear and inevitable consequence of previous Labour over-spending.
There are two reasons for the cuts. First, the Labour dominated Stevenage Borough Council spent up to over £3 million a year more than it was receiving. This went on for years until a couple of years ago. Obviously the council’s balances were drained – as I warned at the time – and SBC were therefore less able to withstand the effects of the recession and government action to tackle the deficit.
Secondly, the Labour council had just belatedly got this under control by 2010/2011, when the Labour government were kicked out, leaving huge extra borrowing (the deficit) at a rate of £157 billion a year. The 15% cut in government grants for SBC in 2011/2012 are a direct consequence of this. You cannot go on borrowing more and more for ever.
Given where Labour left us, SBC had no alternative but to make some service cuts. I particularly regret Labour’s cuts in the Museum opening hours, the Dial a Ride service, elderly persons’ luncheon club funding, play provision and grants to some vital voluntary organizations.
I have no confidence that Labour even now realise the damage they have done. They spent most of the budget meeting making unsubstantiated snipes at the coalition government and did their usual silly trick of pretending I had said the opposite to that which I had in fact said. The council leader even accused me of wanting to spend a lot more money – the exact opposite to the efficiencies I had suggested.
After 27 years of listening to this sort of tactic from Labour, I should not be surprised – but even I was taken aback by their total misunderstanding on this occasion!