It’s a difficult journey

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As the Cabinet Member for Resources and Innovation, I feel that I must respond via your columns to the letters from Messrs Baldry and Wilkinson (Gazette, October 4 and 5), under the heading “Where does money go”? And “You get what you vote for”.

South Tyneside Council has been on a difficult journey over the past six years and this will continue for the next four years.

Whether readers like it or not, the truth is, the enemy is not the council, but the Conservative Government.

Cuts, incompetence, unfairness and inequality were the hallmark of the former Prime Minister David Cameron’s and his Chancellor George Osborne’s approach to local government.

The stark reality is that in the coming financial year we have to save £14million and almost £60million up until 2019/20, this is against a backdrop of significantly increased demand for council services.

Even during the darkest days of the Thatcher era we didn’t see the government slashing public spending and support for the poorest, oldest and most vulnerable in our society as we are now.

The previous administrations chose to prioritise its ideological commitment of rolling back the state, which has a huge impact on local government.

It will be interesting to see what proposals the new Chancellor advocates in his first autumn statement.

Council Tax provides revenues to help with the day to day running costs of council services such as schools, supporting and looking after older people and vulnerable children, refuse collection, street cleaning, and leisure and so on. However, I must stress that the money we receive from Council Tax plays only a small part in the council’s overall budget.

As I have explained we are dependent on the Government grant and without it, we will struggle to provide services in the same way.

That is why the impact of the cut to our grant is having such an impact.

Already 45% of our funding has been taken away by the Government. A further 20% is being taken from us by 2020. Despite six years of fighting for fairer funding, the Government continues to attack the services which we provide.

Yes, as Mr Wilkinson points out “you get what you vote for”, unfortunately, in 2015 the country voted for a Conservative Government and areas like South Tyneside are suffering the consequences.

I really do not understand Mr Wilkinson’s comments “As Labour you brought these Government cuts on yourself after your terms in Parliament”, perhaps he can enlighten us?

Protecting the most vulnerable and investing in our borough are the hallmarks of this Labour Council.

I want to assure the people of South Tyneside that although we have some difficult decisions ahead, we will not give up the fight. We will continue to do all we can to provide quality services for the people of this borough.

Councillor Ed Malcolm,

Cabinet Member for Resources and Innovation, South

Tyneside Council