The Libdems don’t do deals in smoke-filled rooms. Mainly on the basis that the smoking ban ensures they have to think again. Last Monday, Sutton LibDems held a secretive group meeting to update their backbench councillors about the deep cuts to services that they
have planned. When we asked for a similar briefing, we were told that there was no such meeting. The master copy of the list of room bookings showed an entry to reserve the largest meeting room for a LibDem update with an additional instruction not to put this up on the screen by the front door of the Civic Offices with details of the other meetings of the day.
It is true that the Local Government Settlement given by the government, which makes up the largest portion of the Council’s income is poor. The Chancellor announced a 1% real terms increase in an already low settlement and yet expected Council Tax increases to be minimal. With the spending restrictions that he places on the grants given, he is living on another planet if he truly believes that is feasible. This having been said, Sutton Council’s budget has scope for restructuring to cut waste and inefficient spending before even looking at changes to primary services. Years of self-congratulation about how well the LibDems have managed the accounts in better times precludes them from admitting that they haven’t got things right in those comparative years of plenty.
If there are to be significant cuts, we should all be told as soon as possible. We can’t go on with the usual dance each year, when the LibDems drip feed a few dramatic figures at this of year only to “save the day” in the Spring. Last year we suffered the second highest Council Tax in London. The previous year, only a last minute climbdown by the ruling group avoided capping. What’ll happen this year? Who knows? One thing for sure, it won’t be pretty.