In his column for this week’s St Helens Star, Council Leader David Baines spells out the reality facing local councils and other essential services, households and the economy after 12 years of failing Tory government:
“Last week’s Star featured comments from the leader of the local Conservatives, Cllr Linda Mussell. Understandably, she’s upset about the potential closure of Rainford Library. So am I, and we’re ready to work with her and groups like the Parish Council on new ways of delivering library services and more.
Cllr Mussell has called the decision “incomprehensible”, but what’s truly incomprehensible is how she can say so much, so often, and fail to identify the cause of the funding pressures we have to deal with – and that’s her own Party in government.
The Tories have cut our council funding by more than £100m a year since 2010. Such a cut inevitably means difficult and sometimes impossible decisions have to be made, especially when we are legally obligated to set a balanced budget.
I remember Cllr Mussell in a council meeting a few years ago telling us then to stop “banging on” about government cuts to council funding and essential services. No doubt she stood on her doorstep during lockdowns and applauded the NHS and keyworkers – and as a former nurse, to her credit, I know she does understand the value of some public services.
So why doesn’t she really stand up for them and call out her government’s appalling record?
It’s a sad fact that after 12 years of Tory rule many public services across the country are on their knees, from a £4billion black hole in social care funding to 800 libraries closed, youth services decimated, police, school and fire services cut, and not to mention longer waiting times for GPs, NHS, dentists and other vital health services. As for the economy, most of us are now facing financial pressures with rising inflation and stagnant wages, and it’s forecast that millions will be pushed into poverty this winter when energy bills rise yet again.
Here in St Helens we’ve got outstanding community spirit, resilience and determination, and the potential to do great things. We’re doing all we can to protect the most vulnerable and grow our local economy for the good of all residents, but for 12 years we’ve been failed by government.
I’ll stop “banging on” about austerity and this lying, cruel and incompetent government when they stop being all those things and start properly funding essential services and supporting ordinary people.
Best wishes to all Star readers.”