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“Take your heads out of the sand!”

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Bedford Borough Labour Councillors plea for Tory MPs to face up to impact of austerity

Bedford Labour Borough Councillors are calling on Bedfordshire Tory MPs to prove they are not as naïve as the Prime Minister David Cameron about the impact of austerity cuts on council services.

 A letter from David Cameron to Ian Hudspeth, Conservative Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, in which he expressed his ‘disappointment’ at cuts proposed to frontline services such as children’s centres, museums and libraries has shown just how out of touch the Tory Government is from the impact of their cuts to local council budgets.

Bedford Borough Council has already dealt with substantial cuts to its budget over the past 5 years, and has protected frontline services by reorganising back office functions, sharing services, and reducing staff. Now the council is facing a further steep cut in its resources, the level of which won’t be clarified until the Autumn Spending Review  announced by George Osborne on 25th November. Local authorities have been told to budget for a 25% - 40% cut in their grant from central government.

 Bedford Borough Labour Group Leader Sue Oliver said; “In September this year we wrote to our MPs trying to make them fully aware of just how damaging the proposed cuts are. Sadly, the responses from Alistair Burt and Richard Fuller were as ill-informed as the views expressed in the letter from David Cameron to his local council. Nadine Dorries did not deign to respond at all.”

Alistair Burt replied to the letter from Labour Councillors; “Bedford Borough Council will need to continue to play its part by working as effectively and efficiently as it can…… I am well aware of pressure on services, not least those affecting adult social care… and I know this is not easy.”

In his reply, Richard Fuller argued that the budget projections for Bedford Borough Council did not take into account increases to revenue from Council Tax receipts and business rates retention. He continued; “I am sure all Councillors will be keen to assist the Mayor in making sensible savings in order to protect vital frontline services.”

Sue Oliver added: “Now the David Cameron has been exposed as being so entirely out of touch with the impact of his Chancellors’ austerity measures on local government, we have to ask whether our local MPs are any more switched on? Richard Fuller is incorrect in thinking Council Tax and business rates retention will make up the shortfall. Do they have any influence or any inclination at all to dissuade their Government from stubbornly pursuing these cuts?”

Councillor Carl Meader, Deputy Labour Group Leader added: “It’s time our local Tory MPs woke up to the fact that this will affect the council services relied upon by their constituents, and any reduction in frontline services the Council is forced to make will be the fault of their own Government. If they want to help the council protect frontline services they have to speak up for the Borough now, before it is too late.”

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