Southend Council’s Budget: Labour questions Tory priorities

Southend Labour Party has challenged some decisions taken in Southend Council’s recent budget. At the May 2016 local elections, Conservatives had argued to ‘keep Council Tax as low as possible’, yet they have just produced a budget setting the biggest Council Tax rise for a decade. Conservatives were also anxious that the previous coalition administration shouldn’t squander the Council’s reserves, and yet the current administration has engaged in one of the biggest raids on reserves ever seen.

Southend Labour Party considers that the Government’s austerity policy has been a dramatic failure, and it was a Conservative Councillor who said at the last Council meeting: “you can’t cut your way to prosperity”.

When the previous coalition administration increased parking charges the Conservatives complained about it, although they now happily receive this additional car parking revenue into Council coffers.

Conservatives pledged that they would cut the size of the Cabinet from seven to six, but instead they have increased the number to eight. A Conservative Councillor described the setting of new crematorium fees as a ‘tax on death’, but puzzlingly those increases were not reversed by his own party.

Perhaps we can excuse the apparent hypocrisy of individual councillors if they can be seen to be broadly doing a good job but, unfortunately, Southend Borough faces major problems:

• Our local Police Service is in crisis. Conservative Cllr Flewitt has stated that there are streets in Southend that are becoming lawless and went so far as to call for a night-time curfew;

• Our NHS is in crisis. Conservative Cllr Salter said, at the last Council meeting, that she believes the system is underfunded;

• There are now over 2,000 people on our housing waiting list, with many living in unsuitable and overcrowded conditions, yet properties only become available in single figures each month;

• Adult Social Care is in crisis. Domiciliary care has fallen below standard, costs are being squeezed, carers are being paid a pittance, lengths of visits cut, and vulnerable people treated without the dignity and compassion that they deserve.

In adult social care there are cases of missed visits, delayed visits, and poor quality visits, which can be a matter of life and death to people who depend on these services. It is clear that the Council does not adequately monitor the quality of the care we pay for, and we place too much trust in private companies to do the right thing.

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