Cut costs before hitting services

DAVENTRY’S MP has criticised councils for cutting front line services, closing libraries and slashing grants without making efficiency savings first.

Conservative Chris Heaton-Harris said he believed it was wrong for councils to target libraries and charitable donations before looking to their own office costs.

He said: “I think Northamptonshire County Council put out all sorts of options for saving money, including closing some libraries and cutting funding for things like Citizens’ Advice Bureaux. But I also think that if they had gone along with some of these proposals, it would have just been wrong.

“They changed their minds on some of these ideas and they’ve managed to save millions of pounds without affecting many front line services, which does rather suggest the council was a bit on the chubby side to start with.”

However, Mr Heaton-Harris admitted the principle of localism - allowing councils to make their own decisions - can cause difficulties when asking them to make cuts as they may cut things the Government would not expect.

He said: “There are difficulties matching up ‘localism’ with these cuts, particularly where councils have looked first at front line services to save money before looking at their own internal costs.

“There is an expectation that local authorities should try to make efficiency savings and reduce its own costs before targeting services.

“A council cutting back on community projects and services does not sit well with the ‘Big Society’ – although I’m not a fan of the phrase. However, it is something that’s already going on in the Daventry area.

“It’s the type of thing people around Daventry would simply call ‘community’. It’s people who care for relatives, or who signed up to the town’s timebank skills exchange.

“What the Government is trying to do is extend that sense of community across the whole country, because there are areas where it isn’t as strong as here.

“These first two years of the ‘Big Society’ are going to be tough because there’s a lot of change.

“We have to prove people can settle in and get involved and that health and safety rules do not get in the way, that they will see the benefits and that they will change their communities.

“But when the deficit is under control I would like to think that some of that extra cash can be redistributed to people in the form of lower taxes or Big Society projects, or spent on new facilities for the NHS or schools.”