At a meeting of Bedford Borough Full Council on Wednesday evening (7th Dec) Labour’s Borough Councillors reacted with weary disbelief as the Conservative Group continued to deny any responsibility for the savage cuts being made to council services.
Preferring to snipe from the sidelines in order to secure headlines in the local press, the Conservative Group launched another petty Motion to Full Council. Conservative Group leader Councillor Stephen Moon criticised the decision of the Executive to pursue a new model for libraries in the Borough, and alleged that ‘community run’ libraries using volunteers would be a better long term solution. When challenged to explain how this would save more money than the innovative ‘Library+’ model due to be trialled at 3 of the 5 Borough Libraries, Cllr Moon stated, “I don’t agree that people need to be chartered or professional librarians to run a community library.” Not content with disregarding the professionalism of hard working qualified librarians and library assistants in the Borough, he also criticised the reports made by Council Officers to the Executive, calling them ‘prejudiced.’
Responding to the Motion, Labour Group Deputy Leader Cllr Meader said:
“It appears to me the Conservative Group taking a cowardly approach by standing back from making difficult decisions but at the same time not coming forward with realistic solutions.”
“Point six of their Motion to Full Council suggests they recognise this Conservative government are imposing deep cuts to local authority budgets, yet the motion goes on to say that we shouldn't be putting vital services at risk.”
“This motion also insinuates that the public were not listened to. I witnessed over fifty residents attending the consultation in Kempston, many had the view that the future of our library was a done deal . The Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Culture Cllr Sarah Holland answered some difficult questions. Concerns and issues were not only heard they were listened to, recorded and taken away. I believe those Kempston residents now have a clearer understanding of the Borough Councils finances and the £24m budget cuts that are being imposed by the Conservative Government, and are willing to accept a reduced service that retains a vital community amenity.”
“If the Conservative group on this council don't want to be involved in making difficult decisions, please don't continuously undermine the hard working councillors in this chamber who are prepared to get on with addressing the difficult challenges ahead of us to ensure we protect front line services and the most vulnerable people in our borough.”
“The Labour Group believe it's time for the Conservative Group to come out of denial and not only accept but also stand up against a Government that is financially squeezing Local Authorities to the point that it's seriously hurting people we all represent. My plea is for all Councillors to unite and work through this mess together and at the same time challenge the Government. I can say hand on heart that if my party were imposing the same cuts I would be kicking and screaming, and I would even have to consider my position. If all parties don't start challenging the Government the very existence of Local Authorities is under threat.”