Councillors - how will you vote?
PUBLISHED: 09:38 11 February 2011
TODAY, The Journal puts 13 decision-makers in the spotlight over the future of public services in Waveney.
We asked Mike Barnard, Mark Bee, John Goldsmith, Tony Goldson, Kathy Gosling, Colin Law, Deanna Law, Bill Mountford, Bruce Provan, Chris Punt, David Ritchie, Mary Rudd and Ken Sale – all Suffolk county councillors for this district – how they would be voting next week; also, whether they would be supporting the cabinet’s proposals, which would affect a range of services both in Waveney and countywide, including school crossing patrols, libraries, bus subsidies and youth clubs.
We gave the councillors three days to say whether they were for or against the proposals ahead of next Thursday’s make-or-break meeting over the future of public services.
Only one, Ken Sale, failed to respond, but, with only Bill Mountford admitting he was likely to vote against the cuts, five councillors remained undecided this week while six will be backing the full budget.
All will become clear at Endeavour House, Ipswich, when all 75 county councillors vote next week.
HOW YOUR COUNTY COUNCILLOR IS TO VOTE
l The country, and hence our county, has been left a major financial crisis and Suffolk has to save £43m this year before we even start to look at savings to be made next year.
The cabinet had no alternative but to look at all its services and fund all those services which we have to do, particularly for the most vulnerable, and seek savings in services which we are not required to provide. In view of the fact that the council has to produce a balanced budget, I am highly likely to support the full budget on February 17.
Libraries: The library services has to save 30pc of its costs. I hope sufficient members of the community will come forward in Oulton Broad to find a satisfactory solutions to safeguard the future of the library.
Bus fares: The subsidies paid to the bus operators are being cut. We need more fare-paying passengers to use the buses otherwise the bus operators could stop some evening or weekend services that are not being used adequately.
Youth clubs: Some of our clubs have low attendance. I hope we can find sufficient people in the community to take them over and promote them, or find sponsors to continue them.
School crossing patrols: Not all the schools in my area have patrols – some have or will have pelican crossings. The present protection only applies at school starting and leaving times. No cover applies at holidays, weekends evenings etc. Here again I will support sponsorship or groups of parents getting together to assist where necessary.
l It is important councillors hear and take part in the debate for the county budget, particularly as there are complex issues at stake. Unless there is a credible alternative offered by the opposition groups, we have no alternative but to support the budget as presented by the administration and having been discussed through the scrutiny process.
l The decision has got to be made, so I will listen to what is said on the night. Anything that comes up on the agenda is decided on the night, and you can’t forecast anything safely until you have heard all of the information.
Division: Kessingland and Southwold
l The main proposal is to freeze the council tax for the next year, which would be good news for everyone. I am not going to pre-empt the debate in the council chamber next week by deciding how to vote before going into the meeting. However, the simple fact is, we have to cut £43m from this year’s budget. While most of the proposed cuts are coming from efficiencies and working differently, there is no way of avoiding some very difficult decisions. It must be remembered that Suffolk County Council is only having to do this because of the wasteful spending of the last Labour government who left the country in the worst financial position it’s been in for many generations.
l As a member of the cabinet, my view is already known.
l As a cabinet member, my view is already known. For non-cabinet members, they will have the opportunity to debate the issues at full council then make their mind up.
l I will be listening to and debating on the 17th, and my vote at the end will be based upon what I have heard.
Division: Lowestoft South
l I shall be voting against the majority of cuts proposed by cabinet. I have been desperately trying to enlist support for a motion to council. As the only UKIP councillor, I am unable to do this unaided. It would appear I am the only county councillor who believes that in making cuts to services provided to the needy and vulnerable in society we are making cuts in entirely the wrong place.
Suffolk, in common with other councils across the country, has been forced by central government funding cuts to reduce or withdraw services. Having been mugged by “the prefects”, the “big kids” are now looking for anyone smaller or weaker in the school yard to steal their dinner money.
With Britain’s net contribution to the EU set to rise to £50m per day in the next financial year, is this not the obvious place to trim our expenses? Councils should send back a clear signal to government that the disadvantaged, vulnerable and needy members of society cannot be abandoned and left exposed.
“We were just obeying orders” will not do as an excuse. Most MPs, and apparently councillors too, believe and rely on the electorate having a much shorter memory than the party whip. As with any dishonest or immoral activity, a conscience can be influenced by the answer to the question: can I get away with it?”
Division: Lowestoft South
Party: UK Independence Party
l I will be reading the council papers and will have the opportunity to debate the issues at full council, and will then be making my decision.
l Great Britain has a forecast annual debt of £149bn, of which £42bn is annual interest and there is a total cumulative debit of some £885 trillion. The government had three choices:
1 To do nothing ,which is unacceptable – the country would become bankrupt. 2 To make cuts/savings in the short term, which result in short-term pain but a quicker return to growth and prosperity.
3 To make the cuts slowly, which results in increased interest debt repayments; rates are rising and in the long term more cuts become necessary. In layman’s terms it is like having a credit card debt and not paying the full balance each month!
In view of the above, the government’s comprehensive spending review resulted in a 28pc cut for local government and, for Suffolk County Council, savings of at least £110m which have to be found over the next four years.
The council has to set a legal balanced budget at the full council meeting on February 17.
We have reviewed, analysed, scrutinised and debated the budget and, as there is no alternative budget, I will be supporting the budget for 2011/12, with NO council tax rise.
The legacy we inherited from the banking crisis and the previous government’s attempts to manage the economy will not disappear without re-engineering of public services across Great Britain.
l It is my intention to support the budget that the cabinet will present to council on Thursday.
The council will have less money coming in, and to balance the books savings will have to be made: it is as simple as that.
It is unthinkable that Bungay Library should close. At least 200 of us were there last Saturday morning to show our support. Bungay is a well-used and well-loved library in the heart of the community. Suffolk County Council is not actually proposing to shut any libraries.
Community libraries like Bungay will be fully funded until April 2012:after that, the community libraries may continue, but under the control of local trustees.
The county council will continue to fund such libraries with up to about 70pc of the present funding.
Although Bungay will look to reduce its overheads and increase its income, it is essential that libraries such as Bungay maintain a core of professional staff. Enquiries have already been made on behalf of Bungay Town Council requesting the detailed information that will be needed before a trust or similar body can bid to take over the management of the library.
When it comes to the crossing patrols, I regret this, but they will be funded until the end of the summer term, which will allow time for alternative arrangement to be made where the community is particularly keen for them to continue. To improve road safety I have asked for three more toucan crossings to be included in the county’s forward planning for Bungay.
The item in the county budget which I support most strongly is the proposal that there will be no increase in council tax. With all the other household bills going up, I am pleased that we are able to balance the budget without any increase.
l After the debate at full council, having heard all the facts, I will make my mind up then.
l Ken Sale failed to repond to our calls and email for his view.