Fringe Box



Letter: It Is Conservative Funding Policy That Is Causing Borough Council Cuts

Published on: 14 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 14 Feb, 2022

From Fiona White

Lib Dem borough councillor for Westborough

Thank you for the report on Guildford Borough Council’s  February 9 budget meeting. I think it picked up most of the important points made by the various political groups on the council.

See: GBC Approves Cost-Cutting Budget With Maximum 2.5% Council Tax Rise

If I may, I would like to reinforce one point which I don’t think can be made too strongly. That is that no one in either of the coalition groups [Lib Dem and R4GV] that run the council stood for election wanting to cut services or grants to voluntary organisations.

We understand that public toilets are important. We all recognise the great service that Citizens Advice provides across the borough and one which so many people rely. Many of us are fans of the Yvonne Arnaud and want the theatre to flourish in Guildford giving great entertainment for local residents and a wider area.

The uncomfortable fact for Guildford’s Conservative councillors and its MP is that the Conservative central government in Westminster has cut its support for local government both at County and Borough Council levels across England.

See also: We Don’t Like Making Cuts – It Wasn’t What We Were Elected To Do

By law, councillors must be responsible in the way we manage the council’s finances. We cannot – and will not – risk ending up in the same situation as some councils who have had to effectively declare bankruptcy.

I also have to take issue with Cllr Jan Harwood when he called our much-needed upgrade to the borough’s council homes “a gold plated update to our council housing stock”. Obviously, he has not had much experience of dealing with council housing or our tenants; if he had, he would know that the previous Conservative administration had not invested enough in maintaining Guildford’s own housing leaving it to fall into unacceptable disrepair.

It is a fact that council housing needs to be updated in the same way as any other homes. We have a duty of care to our tenants to make sure that the homes they live in are in good condition, including making sure that they are properly insulated where possible.

He was also critical of provision for climate change, for which he was responsible until the change in his political allegiance in November [2021], but he did not say what services he and the rest of the Conservative group would cut to make that provision. I am sure that he is aware that councils can’t use our Housing Revenue Account for any other purpose than for housing, so that intervention was bizarre.

As I have already noted, none of us like reducing services. It just does not feel right. However, the Conservative government that keeps promising us all low taxes does not hesitate to make councils of all political persuasions the villains, by failing to give local authorities the money that is needed to provide essential services.

Conservatives need to be reminded that we are all caught by tax increases even when they come in the form of council tax and perhaps Guildford’s MP, now that she has dropped her government role, may have some time to lobby the Exchequer for a return of the government funding that it used to provide to Guildford Borough Council so that no services need to be cut.

It will be interesting to see if she and her assistant – Cllr Harwood who is now part of her office team – can make this much-needed intervention on behalf of the residents they profess a desire to serve.

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