February 15, 2011
councillor hits back in debate over cash cuts
Burnham-On-Sea county councillor has this week hit out at the
town's MP over comments she made in the House of Commons regarding
the potential closure of Highbridge Library and Somerset County
Council's financial cuts.
Peter Burridge-Clayton, the Conservative councillor for Burnham
North, responded to Tessa Munt's comments in parliament, which
were first reported here.
Talking to Burnham-On-Sea.com this week, Peter said: "There
were several reasons why Highbridge Library came under the spotlight
for closure. Tough choices had to be made and there was a need
to make cuts somewhere."
"In terms of cost per visit, it is the fourth most expensive
in the county. Although the catchment of Burnham is
nine times as large as Highbridge, Burnhams library is used
almost 15 times more often."
"The users of Highbridge Library have a large library nearby
to them - Burnham - which is relatively easily accessible. Personally,
I think it is important to retain Highbridge Library and therefore
a month ago I proposed that the Town Council should use some of
the money put aside for such issues to ensure its survival."
"The proposal would have required some voluntry support,
but at least it would have remained open. This proposal at that
time was rejected and it was also rejected by members of Ms Munt's
Liberal Democrat party."
Mr Burridge-Clayton went on to explain why he believes Somerset
County Council is having to make cuts in its services across the
region, including Burnham and Highbridge.
He said: "Perhaps it is because MPs, including Mrs Munt,
voted for a reduction in grants to SCC. As for the general issues
of Ms Munt's statement in the House of Commons, as well as the
£8m reduction in spending power that she mentions - its
actually £7.4m - there's also £6.7m of NHS grant thats
included in our calculation, but which the NHS have control over.
In addition, there's £8m of loss or reduction in other grants,
meaning that were actually facing a reduction of £22.1m
in our funding."
"Of course, thats only half the story, as our cost
pressures havent stood still, so weve had to fund
pressures of £5m for inflation, £5m for childrens
social care, £3m for adult social care etc. Even though
weve worked very hard to manage these pressures and bear
the extra costs where we have been able to, we were faced with
a budget gap of £34m that had to be closed through savings/cuts."
He continued: "SCC have only got £14m of reserves,
which is on the very low side for an organisation our size (gross
budget of £800m), so to eat into them and deplete them further
would be very imprudent."
"As for capital grants, the direct grant replaces supported
borrowing, so its not additional money. In laymans
terms, instead of being given permission to borrow the money from
the government, the government are giving us the money directly,
so one funding mechanism replaces the other. It does benefit SCC
in so much as they are not having to pay the interest on the borrowing,
but in no way is it £42m of additional funding."
"I am afraid if you vote for something in parliament, then
you have to stand up and be counted when the impact of that hits
your constituency. No amount of standing around with a placard
posing for photographs will resolve these problems. We need action,
not political digs, from our MP."