Lincolnshire

John Hough: A chance to do things differently

This story is over

Every four years people in Lincolnshire have a direct opportunity to decide who should run the county council.

The election on May 4 this year will decide whether we should continue with the policy of cuts in public services or take a different path.

There are many terrific people running services for which the county council has responsibility. From social workers to fire officers, from health visitors to care workers, from teachers to pot hole fillers, they have done a great job despite having less and less money to keep their services going.

Since the Tories took over at Westminster there have been huge cuts in funding for local services. Here in Lincolnshire the Conservative administration has enthusiastically followed the government lead.

Despite having over £150 million in the bank, they have cut, cut and cut again, closing down the youth service, withdrawing help from hundreds of old people and ending support for those in crisis.

Having denied they were going to get rid of libraries prior to the last election the first thing they did once they got into power in 2013 was to propose sacking most of the public library staff and closing most of the libraries in Lincolnshire.

Labour councillors, working with Save Lincolnshire Libraries, campaigned for libraries to be kept and took the council to the High Court which found it had acted unlawfully. The cuts were delayed and a new operator was found which is now running the public library service albeit with smaller libraries having to be run by volunteers or be closed.

Having made a mess of the libraries they then decided they would change the way many back office functions are run and get a new contractor in 2015 – Serco.

Labour councillors warned them that Serco was unlikely to be capable of running such a contract. How right we were. It has been a disaster and two years into the contract, things are still not right.

The problems have not just been for the council but for many schools too, with suppliers not being paid and staff being paid too little or in some cases too much!

In 2016 drastic cuts to the fire and rescue service across the county were announced, including down grading the Lincoln South Fire Station. Labour councillors, working with the community and firefighters, campaigned to secure the future of the Lincoln South Fire Station.

Other threatened cuts to bus services and children’s centres have only been prevented by vigorous campaigning by Labour councillors alongside the community.

And now they are turning off the lights in Lincolnshire. When it was first announced last year they planned to turn them off even earlier at 10pm.

Again a campaign led by Labour councillors and the community forced them to think again and keep the lights on until midnight, though because of the poor technology it could be an hour either side!

In February Labour put forward a costed proposal to turn the lights back on. It was voted down. We will continue to campaign on this and will turn the lights back on as soon as possible after the election.

It’s not just the lights – they are also going to stop cutting the grass all over Lincolnshire. For a county that prides itself on its beauty and its tourism industry this is unbelievable.

Services are being cut while the rates are being increased. While no one is keen to pay a tax rise, people are even less enthusiastic about getting less for their money.

Labour is determined that people should get value for money, which doesn’t always mean the cheapest – look at Serco. Public services are really too important to be only provided by private companies looking for a profit.

And it’s not just the cuts they have already announced that we need to worry about. We already know about the threats to school funding, the funding of our local NHS, the rising cost of adult social care, and the long term funding of the essential Citizens Advice Service in Lincolnshire.

What about other future cuts and increased charging? Parents having to pay more for post 16 school transport, vulnerable adults facing increased charges for their care, more public services disappearing?

We need to do things differently.