In response to the raising of Council Tax to pay for the toilets in Godalming, Ollie Purkiss, the Godalming Lib Dem Councillor, wrote a letter describing the worrying trend of cuts by government being felt at the local level. The full text of the letter is here:
Godalming Town Council voted to increase Council Tax for 2018 / 2019 mainly because of the continued need to pick up the cost for services cut by other Councils. The most recent example was the public toilets in Godalming and Farncombe which were shut by Waverley Borough Council and then reopened by the Town Council. Toilets in the town are a vital service for residents and visitors alike, and whilst I support the increase to pay for them, the background to this situation and the wider forces at work are deeply concerning.
The reopening of the Godalming and Farncombe toilets was trumpeted as a success for the Conservative majority at the Town Council with Councillors gleefully cutting a ribbon and the Conservative Facebook page trumpetting about the “hard work” of their Councillors in resolving the situation. All this with no mention that the Conservative-run Waverley Council closed them in the first place, or that ten of the twenty Godalming Councillors also sit on the Borough Council, including members of the most senior executive committee one of which is the deputy leader.
This issue goes further than local government though, with the driving force being government policies which inflict deep, ideological cuts to vital services such as social care with no plan for how to fill the gaps in funding this creates. These along with financial mismanagement, as seen at both Surrey and Waverley Councils in 2017, cause other local services, such as the toilets, to be clumsily dropped hoping that someone else will pick up the pieces. The net result of all this is that whilst Corporation Tax goes down benefiting a wealthy few, Council Tax goes up unfairly hitting average people and families.
Decentralisation of public services has long been a Liberal Democrat policy and can lead to them being better targeted and more efficient, but let’s not pretend this is a considered and well thought-through process. I call on all levels of government to work together to come up with a realistic plan for funding local services from fair and reasonable taxation, rather than hiding these extra costs in unfair taxes such as Council Tax.
Cllr Ollie Purkiss