Alan Dean

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Stansted North and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Learn more

Madness! Conservative Madness.

by Alan Dean on 19 February, 2019

I am beginning to meet long-standing Conservatives who feel that their party has descended into madness over Brexit. At the same time, I have been under attack from loyal Tory Brexiteers for promoting the next People’s Vote march in London on March 23rd. My critics fell silent when I asked whether they voted Leave to close Honda’s Swindon factory. In a week when the Foreign Secretary has been snubbed by China and Japan for the UK Government’s Brexit shambles, puffed up gunboat diplomacy and official insults, one has to ask whether this Conservative government belongs to the 21st century or to the 19th century.

Conservative madness is also set to undermine local government. Mr Cameron’s and Mrs May’s governments have slashed the funding paid to councils by 50%. They are turning local authorities into investment companies, as councils struggle to plug the funding gap that threatens the deliver of local services. By the early ’20s, Uttlesford will be running a deficit of almost £3,500,000, unless it can find new sources of income. By comparison, council tax income is just over £5,500,000, so UDC would have to increase council tax charges by over 50% to eliminate the deficit.

A 50% council tax increase would be very unpopular, so Uttlesford is planning to triple its borrowing to £150,000,000. Why? The plan is to earn more from investing the money than the interest and repayment charges on the loans. The council plans to invest this money in more commercial ventures like its existing Chesterford Research Park venture.

£150 million adds up to the cumulative council tax payments by Uttlesford’s residents for well over 20 years. That’s a very big mortgage on the shoulders of all residents and businesses in the district. If it’s necessary, prudent investment decisions and strict oversight of the taxpayers’ money is crucial.

The alarm bells that I began ringing last autumn have become louder since October. I was attacked by the Conservatives at the December council meeting for asking awkward questions. At last week’s cabinet meeting, I again raised my concerns that:

  1. Uttlesford Conservatives were planning to borrow £150 million without a clear strategy and rigorous decision-making for its proposed commercial investments,
  2. Uttlesford Conservative have so far failed to establish proper scrutiny and accountability for UDC’s existing and future commercial investments,
  3. Uttlesford Conservatives have no plans to borrow even £150 to invest in much-needed council housing for hard pressed local people.

For the first time, at last Thursday’s cabinet meeting, there was public recognition from the ruling Conservative group that I am on the right track. The council is at last likely to start to get itself properly organised in the next couple of months for handling Truly Big Money.

“Prudence” must be the watchword, to ensure a looming £3.5 million deficit does not become a £150 million millstone round the necks of Uttlesford’s people.

The looming Brexit Madness is hitting the UK economy where it hurts. Uttlesford District Council better steer clear of buying car factories, aircraft factories, and a growing list of businesses that fear Conservative Madness at Westminster!

 

 

   2 Comments

2 Responses

  1. Christine Little says:

    Hi Alan, dismayed to hear, but not surprised, that Uttlesford has got into this awful state! Where is the reasoning !! So how is this money to be repaid??

    • Alan Dean says:

      This is a condition afflicting all unitary/county/district authorities. It has been imposed by the Tory government. It started with Eric Pickles. It’s not Uttlesford’s direct fault beyond being meekly compliant and the Tories somehow lapping up the opportunity to become property speculators. They seem not to like taxation when risky gambling is on offer as an alternative source of funding. Some councils are “mortgaged” with £1 billion of debts spent on assets like shopping centres. An almighty crash may be looming. Look at Tory-controlled Northamptonshire CC. It went bust and is being merged. Makes you wonder if it’s a Conservative centralising plot.

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>