Last week I requested an urgent meeting at the Department of Communities and Local Government to discuss the imminent crisis likely to be caused in West Berkshire by the cuts.
In my letter to Marcus Jones MP, Minister for Local Government I said the following:
“In 2015, I fought hard against the election of our current Conservative Council. I have many criticisms of their priorities and the way they manage our affairs. Even I, however, do not think it reasonable to expect a Council to manage an £8m cut in their main government grant at such short notice.”
However, I have long been concerned at the management of local finances in West Berkshire. I was particularly shocked when the newly elected Council awarded itself a pay increase just months after announcing a crisis in our local health care funding. However, this move by the government is not reasonable. The notice given of upcoming cuts is too short.
The full text of the letterto Marcus Jones MP, Minister for Local Government, follows or can be read at www.westberkslibdems.org.uk: Judith Bunting attacks government cuts to local spending.
I write in connection with the cuts you propose in the Regional Support Grant for West Berkshire District Council. WBDC was expecting a 25% maximum cut in RSG in 2016/17. I understand that new calculations now mean our Council faces a cut of approximately 45%, with only 7 weeks notice for officers to re-draft next year’s budget.
Why are you doing this?
In 2015, I fought hard against the election of our current Conservative Council. I have many criticisms of their priorities and the way they manage our affairs. Even I, however, do not think it reasonable to expect a Council to manage an £8m cut in their main government grant at such short notice.
As MP for Nuneaton, you will be aware that the settlement funding assessment for 2014-15 already put funding for rural districts behind by £153.47 per person compared to urban areas. Multiply this sum by the population of the West Berks District, approximately 154,000, and it’s easy to see how infrastructure and social support is falling behind already.
Biasing further cuts against any rural area seems unreasonable, yet for West Berkshire you are proposing ~45% cut in a single year – proportionally the third largest scything of any English unitary authority.
I ask you to reconsider the cuts you propose making to the West Berkshire Council budget.
As a Minister for the whole of the UK, can you also explain why you are not spreading cuts evenly across the whole country?
Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, Newbury and West Berkshire