Lib Dem/Lab run Wirral Council raise Council Tax but slash services
Like most councillors, in all parties, I stood for election because I wanted to put something back into my community and, in a small way, improve services for the wider Borough. As a Conservative, I believe in low taxation but decent services. I believe that we have a duty to help the most vulnerable and that a Borough can never truly thrive if there are pockets of deprivation.
For those unfamiliar with the geography in the North West, Wirral is the bit on the map that sticks out between Liverpool and North Wales and used to be in Cheshire. We are also the bit that sadly remains
'grey' on the political local government map – no overall control. We have 'posh' bits and we have urban deprivation and, since 1997, we've had four Labour MPs.
Like our neighbours in Liverpool, we've had problems with Militant Labour in the past. Their mantra of 'no cuts to jobs and services'' proved attractive to many in the 1980s.
The last seven days in Wirral has made me wonder if it is only the Conservative Party that now believes in the ideals I outlined at the beginning.
Elsewhere, attention has been on the horrific attacks in Mumbai, the arrest of Damian Green and the backlash against Brown's £1 trillion debt. However, in Wirral attention has been focussed on cuts the likes of which we have never seen before.
Of course, we've had our fair share so far – hospital wards closing, Post Offices going and a profitable Remploy factory all closed by order of Labour. Recent years have seen the Conservatives gain seats in 'traditional' Labour areas and outpoll both Labour and Liberal Democrats. Of course, under Labour's idea of democracy that means little and we still have a Labour-led Council propped up by the Liberal Democrats. The 10-member Cabinet is carved up between them.
Council Tax, Council debt and stealth cuts have continued year-on-year.
However, all this has been dwarfed by the announcement this week,
slipped out by press release at 6pm on a Monday when press
deadlines are imminent.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have decided that libraries, leisure centres, museums, theatres, community centres and family centres are no longer needed and cannot be afforded if Central Government capping is to be achieved.
14 libraries will be closed, mothballed and demolished. Three leisure
centres will go. A theatre that opened a couple of years ago is to be
axed. Community Centres will be transferred to the vague-sounding
'community management' which means closure but not just yet.
Many, if not most, of these facilities have been established for years and are loved and appreciated by residents.
Yet the Council has only now decided on a five week consultation period
that includes Christmas and the New Year and must not include any
petitions in the facilities threatened. When people tried to
speak at the Cabinet meeting, they were denied.
The scale of the backlash against these cuts is only now becoming
apparent to the ruling administration – the local press have given
front page coverage, Facebook groups, Councillor email inboxes
clogging up and phones ringing off the hook. The Labour leader, when referring to the opposition, singled out the blogs of the Conservative Councillors. Praise indeed.
As a Conservative Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate, I am proud,
along with my colleagues across the Borough, to be a member of the
campaign against these cuts and to prove, yet again, that while Labour
talks about public services, it is the Conservatives that 'do' public services.