Blizzard and Bee in war of words

TWO leading politicians in Waveney have become embroiled in a war of words over increases to fees and charges for services in the district.Waveney's Labour MP Bob Blizzard accused Tory-led Waveney District Council of bringing in 'absolutely shocking' above-inflation rises for a wide range of services.

TWO leading politicians in Waveney have become embroiled in a war of words over increases to fees and charges for services in the district.

Waveney's Labour MP Bob Blizzard accused Tory-led Waveney District Council of bringing in 'absolutely shocking' above-inflation rises for a wide range of services.

This provoked a furious response from council leader Mark Bee, who said Mr Blizzard's comments were 'nothing more than an irresponsible rant' and insisted many of the increases were a matter of pence.

Mr Blizzard said Waveney had increased fees and charges for council services by an average of 5pc, with a general 10pc rise for outdoor sports and hikes of between 16.5pc and 100pc for car parking.

He insisted the 2.5pc cut in VAT should have led to reductions in charges.

Meanwhile Mr Blizzard has also hit out at the closure a seaside toilet block at Jubilee beach, in Lowestoft, which has sparked another row.

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And here is the full text of the pair's war of words.

Mr Blizzard: 'This is absolutely shocking to see such high above-inflation increases at the worst possible time, when people are hard pressed to make ends meet. One of the worst things about this is the most vulnerable are being hit hard. The rent of a home alarm for an elderly person has increased by 4.8% at a time when inflation has dropped to its lowest level.

'In December last year the Tory council voted not to pass on the VAT reduction of 2.5pc, but have now reduced the rate as advertised in the new fees and charges book. But by incorporating the VAT rate reduction into the new higher fees the council has in effect taken the 2.5pc reduction for themselves. For example, the price of playing tennis on the Normanston Park all-weather tennis court has increased from �4.40 to �4.80 - an increase of 9.1pc. This is despite the VAT cut, which should have reduced the price by 10p.

'The government is trying to help people through this recession by putting more money in their pocket with initiatives like the reduction in VAT and a cut in income tax, and here is this Tory council taking the money out again with excessive price rises.

'The government is trying to get more people involved with sport, with measures like free swimming for under-16s and over-65s, and here is this Tory council hiking the cost of outdoor sports to all its residents. Incredibly the all-day charge for the all-weather courts at Beccles have been increased from �20 to �30: a 50pc increase.

'And all this has all been done by sleight of hand with no consultation and without being decided by the full council. The Audit Commission has highlighted the council's financial mismanagement over recent years, and local taxpayers are now having to fill the gap in the finances caused by their failure.'

And Mr Bee responded saying: 'This is nothing more than an irresponsible rant presenting small increases in a misleading way to stoke up people's genuine fears about the economy. I am appalled that, at a time when this country is suffering the full impact of his Government's appalling economic mismanagement, the MP is trying to frighten residents with his own twisted spin on an open and transparent process.

'Timing is everything for this cynical politician who now chooses to rail against decisions that he and everyone else knew about in January. This comes on the same day that national focus turns to a budget that failed to produce any clear indication of how his party's Government will get us all out of the mess they have created.

'His examples of 'shocking increases' are beneath contempt and it is outrageous to claim, for example, that the vulnerable will be hit hard by an increase in the charge for a home alarm when it is actually going up by only �1.78. It is disgraceful that he shouts about '100pc' increases where the only examples of this equate to a 50p increase for all-day Sunday parking on two sites and 25p to 50p for photocopying.

'How can he call an increase in the charge for using the Beccles all-weather surface for a whole day 'incredible' when it equates to around 5p per person per hour for a cricket match? More incredible is the ridiculous emphasis he has placed on the cost of playing tennis in Normanston Park which has actually increased by only 10p or 20p per player.

'Charges are carefully considered by the council and allow us to invest important funds in facilities and services for our communities. Mr Blizzard talks of this administration's 'sleight of hand' and yet the criteria for determining charges was agreed by an all-party committee nearly three years ago and of course he chooses to ignore cost freezes which are actually reductions in real terms, such as market stall rents, burials and entry to a popular indoor children's play facility.

'This is a time when governments, local and national, should be working together to alleviate the genuine hardship being suffered by communities throughout the country and yet Bob Blizzard would rather mouth off and manipulate. He would rather scare our communities with silly misleading percentages and it is about time he grew up and engaged in mature politics for Waveney's benefit. The clock is ticking for him and the Labour Party and the sooner he realises that this district and this country need real action, not petty sniping, the better for all of us.'

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