“It is time that we took a cross party approach and wrote to the government together to tell them that they have cut our services to the bone and we now need some holistic, intensive therapy– not just a tiny sticking plaster stuck on a severed artery,” said Cllr Sharon Taylor, proposing Labour’s amendment to the Conservatives’ budget for Hertfordshire for 2019/20. Sharon is the Labour spokesperson on the County Council for resources and performance.
She made it quite clear that Labour understood the swingeing cuts in local authority funding made by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition and Conservative governments. “We have seen £16 billion of cuts since 2010; that is 60 pence in every pound that the last Labour government allocated for local services,” she said. She added that the settlement for the coming year represents another cut of £1.3 billion.
Childrens and Adult Services under pressure
Hertfordshire is struggling. For example, children’s services is overspent this year by more than £5 million. Adult care is overspent too. But we have to keep going to provide these vital services and she paid tribute to the local government staff working on the front line, delivering such services, especially to our most vulnerable residents.
“That is why we have tried to be creative and helpful,” she said, explaining that some Labour proposals were cost-neutral and others were invest-to-save polices. Where the proposals are alternative ways of spending the limited funds, they have been fully costed.
Fairer Deal for Young People and the Elderly
For young people, Labour calls again for those leaving care to be exempt from council tax up to age 21. We also want the cuts in neighbourhood youth services to be halted and the subsidy for the young people’s Savercard to be maintained, to promote the habit of public transport use. An increase in the County contribution for young people’s mental health services is aimed at “queue-busting”. A bid for a share of the business rate “pot” for funding for apprenticeships is a no-cost proposal.
For older people, we proposed restoring the cuts to Supporting People funding to enable people to come home from hospital more quickly. We also want a full review of Adult Care Services including the option of bringing the service back in-house. Sharon also called for a review of bus subsidies, because there was “a horrible contradiction” between the budget cuts and the Local Transport Plan’s aim of encouraging people to use public transport.
Safety and Security
There was also a proposal to increase the amount each councillor can spend locally on highways and to increase the scope of possible spending to include paying the minimal cost of keeping street lights on in urban areas and to allow spending on bus subsidies, footpaths and cycleways.
Waste disposal and fly-tipping
Finally, fly-tipping would be reduced by restoring household waste recycling centres to seven day opening.
These proposals would be funded with money from the existing Invest to Transform fund, a small reduction in the communications budget and review of senior management with the aim of reducing the number of highly paid staff.
All these proposals were voted down by the Conservative councillors by 49 votes to 25.