Public services likely to be “decimated”

Public services likely to be “decimated” says Councillor John Williams

CUTS to council spending will plunge a town into an era of hardship worse than during the time of Margaret Thatcher, the authority’s leader says.

Councillor John Williams said public services were likely to be “decimated” as Darlington Borough Council struggles to try to save £22m from its £107m budget.

The council had initially reckoned on having to save £11m over five years.

But it now looks as though the new coalition Government has doubled that figure, with the first £11m worth of cuts potentially having to be made in the first year.

Although no decisions have been made about where the axe would fall, Coun Williams believes every service will be affected.

He said: “In my view, public services are going to be decimated by these cuts.

“I think these cuts are going to be far, far deeper and far harder to bear than any cuts that have been made previously, even more so than those in the Thatcher era.

We are not talking about major surgery, we are talking about amputation.”

He said that while he understood the need for some cuts, the savings were being made too quickly. He said: “The Government has not thought through the social consequences of these cuts. We will be doing everything, as far as we can, to protect the most vulnerable and needy in the Darlington community.”

The council is working on proposals for potential savings.

Coun Williams said the authority would consult with people and organisations in the town to help decide where its spending priorities lay.

Political leaders from the town’s opposition parties said they hope the cuts can be made without seriously affecting frontline services.

However, Conservative leader Coun Heather Scott said: “Everybody is going to be affected.

There has got to a realisation that this is a very serious situation.

“The coalition Government has had some difficult decisions to make. I agree with what they are doing and I think the sooner we get over this, the better.”

Liberal Democrat leader Martin Swainston said: “I think a reduction in management can protect the frontline services.

“The blank cheques that Labour were writing have now come back to bite us.”

The town’s Labour MP, Jenny Chapman, has called for community involvement in any decisions.

She said: “The long-term consequences, in terms of unemployment and loss of services, are going to be quite devastating.

“What is really galling is people didn’t vote for this.

“Labour might have lost the election, but the Conservatives didn’t win and the Liberal Democrats certainly weren’t elected on this platform.”


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