Local Issues

Letter to Secretary of State

Dear Secretary of State,

First may I thank you for responding to the concerns raised by Tamworth and Cannock councils regarding the proposal by Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council to “top-slice” 15% of our disabled facilities grant. Thanks to the response of your officials, we will now be receiving the full amount due.

The second reason for writing to you is to ask for the DCLG’s guidance on whether it is appropriate for Tamworth Borough Council to impose an additional charge for emptying the Green Bins after having already set the annual budget. Back in January when the Tamworth budget was being put together, we were informed that Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council planned to withdraw the recycling credit covering green waste. Even our local Conservative council leadership were unhappy about such a proposal and subsequently the Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council withdrew the proposal. However, at the annual budget setting meeting of Tamworth Council, I asked the Conservative Leader of the Council what he would do when Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council changed their minds and he said he fully expected that the county council would do so immediately after the election and therefore Tamworth’s budget contained sufficient contingency to cover the withdrawal of the subsidy. Nevertheless, in April, Tamworth Borough Council’s Conservative controlling group introduced additional charges for green bin collection from the start of 2018, i.e., within the current budget year. Some would argue this constitutes a “Supplementary Rate” and I would value your opinion on this. Nevertheless, I share the view of many residents that this is not fair as the cost was already covered in the Council Tax charge for the coming year.

As Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council is a major precepting authority, and would therefore fall under Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003, may I ask your officials to investigate the “robustness” of the budgeting process undertaken by the Chief Financial Officer in the setting of the budget of Staffordshire County Council for 2017/18. On the day of their Budget debate, County Cllr Sheree Peaple queried a line in the budget providing for savings of £2 Million to be achieved by a proposed transfer of care obligations to the NHS, stated to be due to the provisions of the Care Act – on the grounds that the responsibility referred to did not exist in the Act.  She was assured that the relevant budget line was correct in the papers presented to the meeting. However, by the same evening, she received notice from the responsible officer that she was correct and that the wrong explanation had appeared in the budget, and that the money was going to be saved because of other agreements reached with NHS providers, though no details were supplied. Given this and the widely held view, in Conservative and other ranks, as above, that the Green Waste credit would also be withdrawn after the election can it really be said that a robust balanced budget was presented by Staffordshire County Council or have they failed in their legal obligations under the act?

I understand that other councils are raising the issue of the proposal by Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council to charge for DIY waste and I look forward to hearing whether the DCLG confirm that it is not an appropriate charge to make, even if it were possible to determine how to administer such a charge.

I look forward to receiving your views on these matters.

 

Yours sincerely

Cllr Dr Simon Peaple

Leader of the Opposition, Tamworth Borough Council

Key local issues we have raised in Council – Local Hospital Facilities

At a recent meeting with a representative of the health providers they assured us that they wish to invest in additional facilities at Robert Peel by increasing diagnostic and other services there, including hiring GPs.

The meeting was with leaders of the different political groups and there was a general view that we agreed with the health providers’ aims, but we would look to see if they could achieve them, and scrutinise them carefully at each stage.

Key local issues we have raised in Council – Disabled Facilities Grants

At Christmas Council we highlighted the Conservative County Council’s attempt to top-slice 15% of the grants received from government before passing them on to districts such as Tamworth.

Under pressure, the local Tory leader, who was already in discussions with the county, agreed Tamworth would not sign up to the scheme. The DCLG (Department for Local Government) have now officially confirmed that the County have no right to hold on to any of the allocated money. Pressure from Labour has exposed and blocked yet another tawdry attempt by the Tories at Staffordshire County Council to make cuts at the expense of the vulnerable.

Key local issues we have raised in Council – Pot holes

The Conservative government’s cuts to local government finance have left the Conservative County Council with too little money to maintain our roads, and at the last meeting in Stafford the Conservatives officially stated there were 10,000+ unrepaired “potholes” in Staffordshire – and the number is not going down as they are only just keeping up with the number that are being reported currently.

Local sources suggest that the county have returned the additional machines they had hired and so Tamworth now has only one pot hole repairing machine.

Key local issues we have raised in Council – Green Bins

Labour’s councillors hammered home the key points about the new charge for green bins that will be levied from January 2018.

The charge does not represent the cost of the service; the Tory County Council have plans to cut the recycling credit by £223,000 which equates to £7.08 per household but the Tory Tamworth Council are going to charge £36 (online). They anticipate only 40% of households will continue to pay for green bins so Labour councillors pointed out that there is likely to be widespread abuse of the system, including residents putting green waste in their black bins as they used to do before recycling schemes were introduced.

Tory Lichfield Council need to find £2M in savings but Tamworth have the opportunity to invest the money from the sale of the golf course, so are using this opportunity to raise income ahead of the further cuts due next year and the ending of government grants to local councils in 2020. At the County Council’s Budget meeting the Tories presented a balanced budget without the cuts to recycling, but at our budget meeting the local Tory leader confirmed to me that Tamworth Council expect the County Council to withdraw the subsidy as soon as the election is over.

The reality is that the Tories at County originally thought the Conservative Borough councils would pass the charge on in a year where there were no borough elections but the Tories across the county realised they would still be blamed, and now Tamworth are bringing it in five months before the next election.