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It’s time for a Change: Councillors should consult, count & cooperate effectively   

April 16, 2022 9:05 AM

Amjad Abbasi - Elliman Ward"Liberal Democrats elected to Slough Council will consult, count and cooperate effectively in addressing the unprecedented financial crisis facing Slough Council as a result of the shocking failures of Slough's current Labour and Conservative councillors.

Appalling mismanagement and reckless borrowing by Labour councillors for many years is the main cause of the perhaps worst financial crisis any UK Council has ever created. However, the confrontational and irresponsible attitude of Labour and Tory councillors contributed to causing the crisis, with the Tory budget proposals in March 2021 being so unbelievably irresponsible that, if adopted, they would have made the crisis even worse.

Wherever possible we shall promote collaborative and innovative approaches to address the very many challenges now facing Slough. One party rarely has all the answers, and dangers arise when it thinks it does."

This is the message from Matthew Taylor, Lib Dem candidate for Cippenham Meadows, and Chair of Slough Liberal Democrats, as he launched the Lib Dem's manifesto for the May 2022 elections. The document, entitled: "It's time for a Change: Councillors should consult, count & cooperate effectively." will be available to read, in full and highlights, on the Lib Dems' website: Slough Lib Dem 2022 Local Election. It's time for a change: Councillors should consult, count & cooperate effectively

Matthew continued:

"The Labour Party already has so many councillors it will control Slough Council whatever happens in May's elections. So, it is important to elect some Lib Dem councillors who will highlight key issues, and promote effective consultation, counting and collaboration. In the past 12 months, a whole series of reports have exposed the Slough Labour councillors' disastrous mismanagement of the Council's finances. In March 2022 the Council's new Director of Finance highlighted some of the worst aspects of the failures. The key points from this devastating report are included in our manifesto:

  • Slough's budget deficit: "is of a magnitude which has not been seen before across the UK and is accompanied by a range of issues that are likewise extremely wide ranging, unique in their appearance and size at one Council"
  • Incredibly "the Council has no complete and fully accurate accounts since 2015/16"!
  • The cumulative failings over many years mean "The current estimates for 2022/23 show that the budget requirement is 78 per cent greater than sources of funding".
  • From: "2022/23 to 2028/29 very significant savings in the order of £20m will be required per annum in addition to further capitalisation. The £20m per annum savings will require cost cutting to a degree not seen anywhere else"

Amjad Abbasi, Lib Dem candidate for Elliman ward, said:

"Many of the people I know from when I ran a business on Elliman Avenue are appalled at the level of mismanagement and incompetence shown by Slough's ruling Labour councillors. The people are really concerned about the cuts already being made in vital services such as social care, street cleaning and education. Also people are angry that the higher Council tax makes the cost of living crisis created by the Tory Government even worse. They are even more horrified when they find out things are so bad in Labour-run Slough that there will be further cuts every year until 2029. People say 'It's Time for a Change!'"

Matthew Taylor with results from a Cippenham litter pick led by Lib Dem Focus teamMatthew Taylor added,

"It's very important to realise that the new Director of Finance, and the Commissioners sent in by the Government to oversee the Council at the expense of Slough Council Tax payers, seem to make clear that given the failings of the Council, there is no viable alternative for Slough Council other than making savings of at least £20m a year until 2029, and continuing the capitalisation programme, which presumably means applying the maximum permitted rise in Council tax.

Shockingly Slough Tories are behaving as irresponsibly as in March 2021. They are claiming in leaflets: 'There is an alternative'; then failing to give any relevant details of what this might be. If the Tories believe there is an alternative, it would have to consist of deeper cuts and/or holding a referendum to increase Council Tax by more than the maximum allowed by the Government. The Tories should come clean about whether they want more severe cuts or higher Council Tax."

Finally, Matthew Taylor said,

"Slough Lib Dems' manifesto makes clear that in the current situation, drastic cuts are inevitable. But what needs to change is the approach taken by councillors to ensure Slough Council and residents get out of the crisis. All councillors will have to do three things:

  • First, acknowledge Slough Council's unprecedented failings and level of cuts that will be needed to rectify the situation.
  • Second, recognise the factors behind the failings of the Labour-run Council. Some of these go back a decade, with an official report into the Council's failings saying in September 2021, 'The roots of the failure go back to 2011 and an OFSTED judgement on their Children's Services'. Slough's Labour councillors too often fail to listen to suggestions from others on how to tackle problems. Similarly, as with the A4 bus lane fiasco, the Labour-run Council too often failed to consult properly before taking action. These failings were made worse by the culture of conflict and lack of cooperation on Slough Council, in which Labour councillors mismanaged the finances, Tory councillors behaved irresponsibly, and the residents of Slough suffered."
  • Third, councillors should learn that to address the many challenges it will be crucial to effectively consult, count and cooperate."

Catharine Parkes-Haymill and Lynch HillThe Government could do more to help. Catharine Parkes, Lib Dem candidate in Haymill and Lynch Hill, points out that the Lib Dems' commitment to a much larger COVID recovery fund for schools than that proposed by the Tory Government will be very much welcomed in Slough, where all local services are facing years of cuts because of the failures of the Labour-run Council.

Every vote for a Lib Dem is a vote to tell the Tories they must provide much more extra funding to help schools catch up after COVID, and help the NHS catch up in services such as cancer.