Observer: Time for new model of local government

Our Saturday independent columnist Observer reviews the cuts being suffered in local government.


It was outspoken Labour politician Denis Healey who allegedly threatened to tax the rich until the pips squeaked.

On the other side of the political debate, it is the current Conservative government which is making the pips squeak at Conservative-controlled county hall in Lewes.

Central government grants to local government have been slashed in the name of austerity.

Fat to be cut

No doubt, in the early days there was fat to be cut but now those in power at East Sussex County Council are down to the bone.

We have already seen the effect of the cuts in Uckfield.

A reduction in grass cutting and in library opening hours are just two examples.

Town council to pay

A few weeks back Uckfield Town Council narrowly agreed to pay for more verge trims next season in the town.

That was a mistake.

When it goes wrong, or the town pulls out, it will be town councillors who will be in the firing line.

If, and it is a big if, the town council has money to spare, it should be invested in people, such as trying to support those folk suffering hardship through social care cuts, rather than making things look pretty.

Some councillors arguing for the town council to pay for grass cutting, I am told, backed their case by saying this was what residents wanted.

People must choose

They should ask again: do you want the grass verges cut or do you want to help an elderly person in need? You may get a different answer.

Yes, we would like both. Until austerity ends we cannot.

Cllr Diane Ward hit the nail on the head this week when she said the town council is not the bank of Uckfield.

Fairer central grants

Returning to those at county hall, they are right to be lobbying central government for a fairer grants settlement.

However, the councillors should realise the current set-up is unsustainable and should be seeking some radical solutions.

They already have sharing arrangements with other counties for some services.

A starting point would be to begin thinking of some full-scale mergers.

As I have said in the past, having three tiers of local government serving Uckfield (and many other parts of the country) is a luxury we cannot afford.

See also:

Uckfield business news round-up

Weekend events in Uckfield area

Preparations for Remembrance

Find local organisations in our Uckfield Directory

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