I noted with interest the letters from Mr Dorman-O’Gowan (News Post Leader, January 23) and ‘name and address supplied’ (January 30) about the rise in the Cramlington council tax precept and alleging broken promises.
Let’s be sure of the facts here. Last year my mail bag was overflowing with complaints from residents about the poor condition of grass cutting, overgrown hedges, tree maintenance, litter and overgrown verges to footpaths.
In our recent consultation on the budget the responses indicated that this was a huge concern and that things needed to improve.
Northumberland County Council faces £130m cuts in spending over the next four years or around £259 per person per year in the county. That is a 23 per cent cut in the budget.
And we learn today that the constituencies of Tory ministers in the affluent south are seeing not cuts but increases in funding by as much as seven per cent. We’re clearly not all in it together in Northumberland!
In the last four years to 2013 the Lib Dem run county council cut the budget which saw 500 jobs go each year, resulting in a devastating impact on front line services, especially grass cutting.
Whilst the Labour administration is now committed to protecting existing front line services as far as possible, these unprecedented cuts in public services mean the county council simply can’t provide additional resources to improve neighbourhood services that people want.
The situation is unlikely to get better any time soon. If public spending cuts continue things may indeed get worse.
And promises, our manifesto set out clearly that our priority was to improve Cramlington. Let’s not forget that the people overwhelmingly backed this manifesto commitment in the ballot box last May.
And ‘name and address supplied’, I always worry about the motives of people who want to remain anonymous, the decision to increase the precept wasn’t made behind closed doors but democratically at full council on January 15 in which Tory members abstained and still won’t commit to supporting our plans.
And the cost? The majority of people in Cramlington will be paying around 75p a week extra. What Mr Dorman-O’Gowan failed to say was that 156 per cent increase applies to less than 900 properties in Cramlington.
We believe that people will accept that for a modest increase we’ll see a much improved Cramlington.
It will create nine new full-time jobs with the possibility of apprenticeships for our young people, weekly grass cutting, much improved hedge and verge edging, minor tree maintenance, litter removal and winter maintenance services like gritting, but more importantly for the first time local control over the quality and performance of the service.
Cramlington soon will not just be the largest town but is the gateway to Northumberland.
Does it not deserve better services? I believe it does.
The town cannot fall short because we aren’t prepared to have the same vision as our people for a better town that looks great and makes it a place that people are proud to live in, visit and for businesses to invest in.
Of course, had we not had these public spending cuts imposed on us then we would not have had to raise the council tax precept.
So let’s be clear about where the blame lies – firmly with his Tory-led coalition government who have imposed this devastation on our local services.
Coun Allan Hepple
Labour Group Leader
Cramlington Town Council