Thursday, 10 February 2011

Opposition to cuts continues. There are real alternatives, but who gets to choose?

For the record, at last nights Council meeting I made the following alternative proposals for massive cuts at Wellingborough Council. I called specifically for the people of Wellingborough to have a real choice put before them in a referendum: of either massive cuts to public services or a 50p car parking charge and/or a 5% increases in council tax from 2012 ,having had five years of no increases in council tax at all. These are democratic issues not just about cuts. How far will the Tories allow the public to have a genuine choice put before them, an open and honest debate, with all the facts available? Currently it seems that the Tories are not interested in democracy in action. Are they not interest (frightened?) of what the people may say.

My Proposals in full:

1. To allocate £2 million from the £9 million we have in revenue balances to make the current level of cuts unnecessary for the next 12 months. Wellingborough, compared to many councils, is relative rich. We can afford this and still have reserves to cover other unforeseen eventualities. The Daily Express supports councils doing this; the government has suggested it and I believe we should do it. Reserves are intended to cover “emergencies” or unforeseen situations. If this does not count I don’t know what doesn’t! The very existence of the council and its services to the people of Wellingborough is under threat and we have not had sufficient time to look at alternatives. We will be buying up to 12 months of space to look at these alternatives and engage with the people of Wellingborough over them.

2. We should apply to the government, as suggested in the report before us, for a “Capitalisation Direction” to enable us to use our extensive capital reserves (of over £14 million) for revenue purposes – particularly to under-right any future redundancies if they become necessary in 2011/12

3. We should consider a supplementary council tax rate increase of 3% during 2010/11 if the funding from the government to cover the cost of a nil council tax increase does not materialise.

4. We should hold a referendum during 2010/11 on increasing the council tax by 5% in 2011/12

5. There should be a referendum on whether the council should introduce car parking charges of around 50p for three hours in all town centre car parks.

6. We should explore the possibility of applying for a local byelaw that would enable the council to introduce car-parking charges for out-of-town shopping, to enable the town centre to remain at least on a level playing field compared to them in this respect (Localism Bill will allow for this)

7. No redundancies to take place during 2010/11

8. All proposals to cut fundingshould be withdrawn and proposals to “outsource” facilities (such as Glamis hall) should be delayed for at least 12 months

9. All current council services should remain without the need for cuts

10. Proposals for income generation (e.g. credit card fee, solar panels on council buildings) should be proceeded with) and other similar income generation opportunities should also be considered and fully consulted on with the people of Wellingborough

Campaigning against the cuts must continue and intensify and yesterday I also called upon Wellingborough Council to work with other local authorities, trade unions, community groups and others around the country to defend public services and to defend local democracy. If this battle is not won, there will be little left for local government and local councils to do in four years time and local communities will be devastated. Is this what local people want? I think not.



  1. It's really good to see some practical suggestions for alternatives to what the council has proposed.

    The one that would really hit me is the idea of charging people to park in Wellingborough. It could be 50p or £5, people will still be put off by the idea of paying, and as someone running a business in the town centre, it's already difficult enough to convince people that Wellingborough offers good shopping. It's not about the amount charged, it's just one more little thing that would discourage people from using the town centre rather than one of the surrounding towns. Also, surely it costs money to enforce it? There's a reason that Matalan charges non-customers for the use of their car park... because it deters them from using it!

    Whilst I wouldn't excitedly welcome a rise in council tax with open arms, a small percent wouldn't be too noticeable and if it can prevent some of the drastic action that is being considered by the council, I could support it.

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  3. Kat,

    Thanks for your contribution. I don't think the question is simply "do we increase car parking charges?". Who in their right minds would (in abstract) say "yes"! The question now is "do you want to see massive and devastating cuts to Wellingborough Council's services or do we try to increase income?". Car parking charges are only one (albeit major) suggestion that needs to be expored. But more importantly these issues need to be openly and frankly debated, with full evidence available as to the effects of both cuts in council services across the board (and even more will come next year) and car parking charges (whicvh will gnerate a susatinable long-term incoem stream of between £800,000 and £1 million).

    The people of Wellingborough should then be given the opportunity - through a referendum - to say what they think. We are living through a crisis of major proportions and I am deeply concerned that decisons are being made that do not involve all possible options being explored and the people of Wellingborough being actively engaged in these hard decision. Whatever people's views on car parking charges, the issues are fundamentally about democratic participation and putting choices forward.

    As an aside, I don't think think the effects of charges would be as people suggest - especially if out-of-town car parking was charging as well. In most case charges would be re-imbursed by the supermarkets (in the town centre this would be Morrisons). In reality the effects of car parking charges have never been fully assessed because "free car parking" has become almost a religious mantra - despite the fact that running and maintaining car parks costs the Council huge amounts of money - currently paid for by all the people of Wellingborough - whether they have a car, or use the car parks at all.

    But these issues should be part of serious debate leading up to a referendum on the issue - then let the people decide!