Saturday 19 September 2015

Which services are we cutting today?

as usual an interesting meeting of the Norfolk County Council Environment, Transport and Development Committee was held yesterday (or 'TED' as I like to call it). Sadly, as with most council meetings - the primarily focus was on 'which services are we cutting today?' - such is the state of local Government finances thanks to the Conservative Government. Sadly as a committee we had to vote through to close a recycling centre at Docking, it's currently a part-time recycling centre but it's the less well used in the county and has the least tonnage deposited there annually and as officers pointed out there are alternative recycling facilities within an acceptable travelling distance ('acceptable' is of course dependent upon your opinion). Three other sites were also reduced from full-time to part-time provision. What was annoying as ever was the Conservative members of the ETD Committee grand-standing and objecting to this closure but offering no alternatives for saving the money that was needed to be saved. As I pointed out to them, I did not stand for election because I wanted to close anything, reduce to part-time or cut back on services in any way but; look at the context. Massive funding cuts from the Conservative Government, increasing demand for Council services particularly in relation to adult social care and children's services, rising costs as a result and other cost pressures, Conservative County Councillors and UKIP blocking any increase in Norfolk County Council's share of Council Tax and departments that have already teased out 'efficiencies' over many years so there is little less to save - what do you get? oh yes, CUTS. Another proposal on the agenda was to close all of Norfolk's recycling centres on bank holidays, i.e. all 5 bank holidays in the year. I could not bring myself to back this and it was not supported by the committee (only just)!. The Committee did accept my amendment however to establish a working group with Councillors looking at other ideas to save money so that further cuts, including closure on bank holidays, is not necessary - answers on a postcard anyone? (Personally, I think the opening hours for recycling centres are incredibly generous - 7 days a week, I'd much rather we reviewed what are the quietest days, I think probably Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and close on these days to maintain a stronger service for the remaining five) Interestingly, at the same meeting we had a long discussion about waste. District Councils collect waste, i.e. wheelie bins and also fly-tipping, but it's the County's responsibility to dispose of it - this currently costs £40million a year in Norfolk and as a County we only recycle 43%. I think there's a big opportunity to increase this 43%, particularly through better publicity and education and there's also a strong message there; recycle more so it costs less, which means more money for fire stations, schools, recycling centres! etc.