We live in an age of austerity and cuts. Services like youth centres and mental health support slashed, rural bus routes removed, payments introduced for removal of green waste and just recently swinging cuts to funding for the vital work of CAB.
We are told councils are strapped for cash – so we must just knuckle down and accept it. Yet just recently there have been three major reports of profligate spending by our Councils – who often fail to take into account that the money does not actually belong to them but that they are administering it on behalf of the taxpayer from which it’s sourced.
On April 1st SCDC and Waveney Councils finally merge into one Super District – East Suffolk. To mark the occasion councillors have decided to throw themselves a big party costing £15,000 for 450 guests at Snape Maltings.
Recently a communiqué was circulated asking for people’s positive memories of the passing SCDC council which could be celebrated at this event. I don’t know about you – but what comes to my mind is the mishandling of lottery money designated for the Spa Gardens which went instead to pay off disgruntled contractors, loss of vital services, a total disinterest in Felixstowe over a number of years by those in Woodbridge, and the much maligned Local Plan which seems to shoe horn a large majority of the Government housing quota for east Suffolk onto our AONB land.
Secondly Suffolk County Council have recently commissioned a report from think tank ResPublica- ‘Suffolk’s Strategic Housing Role’ – or put another way – ‘how do we shoehorn far too many houses into spaces not designed for them to fulfil our government housing quota and override the wishes of the local community with alacrity?’
This cost £66,000 and was published on the Council’s website on Feb 21st – yet it consists of only 14 pages which equates to £4,700 per page!
The Council defends the report with the words ‘it continues constructive conversations’. What! – I could do that for £5 over some cups of coffee!
Sarah Adams of the Labour Group put it more succinctly ‘To say this report is disappointing would be a gross understatement ……. it is devoid of any discernible substance or purpose.’
There have been a number of SCC projects recently which have wasted an incredible amount of money including the Barley Homes joint housing venture which lost £70,000 after the plug was pulled without a single home being built and the £8 mill spent on the also axed Upper Orwell Crossing Project. These are not small amounts – not to the ordinary tax payer anyway.
Finally, SCC spent almost £95,000 over the last three years on awards events – one of the biggest spenders in the region. Now most would agree that it’s good to recognise achievement – but the average spend by other local councils in Suffolk and Essex was £18,000.
The Conservatives hold sway on all our local councils. Perhaps more opposition would be useful – something to bear in mind at the local elections in May. In Hadleigh local people have formed a new minor party which independents can stand under the banner of – decrying the fact that local councils are run on party lines. In Kirton and Trimley the call has gone out for independents to stand and oppose the Local Plan. Maybe it’s time for a sea change in the way we are represented on local councils – and the way they decide how to spend our money.