This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser.
Here’s your starter for ten points. What is the relationship between the government’s spending review due later this year and the news that the Conservative administration wants to expand the parish council ‘model’? Could it be that they are keen to lessen the flak they will come under when implementing another round of swingeing cuts? Why not pass the buck to parishes? This will give the parishes the opportunity to implement their own cuts rather than all the blame being heaped on the SBC administration.
Economically it makes no sense. Providing services at the Borough level allows economies of scale which cannot operate at the parish level. Moreover, parishes are unlikely be able to sustain services for long. In the same issue of the Advertiser as the article on this proposal we read of a parish unable to even afford to aerate a local pond with the Environment Agency pulling out.
The level of cuts which have been implemented and expected future ones will mean that SBC, as with other Councils, will be forced to cut back to statutory services they have to provide and the rest will go to the wall. However, this would still not prevent a decline in the services they are obliged to provide. Local government in England has already lost 350,000 full time staff, 150,000 fewer people now receive adult care and 470 libraries have closed.
The Local Government Association has warned that if the Chancellor does not seriously look at “unfunded cost burdens” this could result in important local services “being scaled back or lost altogether”. For instance, Councils are supposed to implement the “living wage” without any additional funding.
Rather than this cull of services the Council should be telling the government – in line with LGA statements signed by David Renard – that the proposed cuts are simply unsustainable. They will have disastrous social consequences. How long with the ruling group sustain it’s supine position?
This move would mark a significant change in the organisation of local government in the town. It should not take place by way of the usual ‘consultation’. Just as tenants had the power of decision over the Council’s proposal to flog off our homes, this proposal should be put to a referendum of Council Tax payers. That will cost money of course. It would be preferable that the proposal should be binned. However, if the administration insists on going down this road then they should put it to a binding referendum of Council Tax payers. It should not be a decision for a few dozen Councillors.