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:
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!