County Issues–Budget, Council Tax, Waste, Schools ,Power Lines,

Charging for Collection of Garden Waste

Councillors introduced a £40 charge for the garden waste bin because a large percentage of Mid Suffolk’s residents compost at home.  We did not want to discourage that or charge all residents for a service many do not want.  Collection is good for government targets since it counts as recycling but creates extra lorry miles, which is bad for the environment.

However, the Lib Dem group proposed that pensioners or at least those on benefits should not be charged.  Unfortunately that tends to penalise those who are not well off but are above the benefit threshold.  The charge for plastic sacks is of course not just for the sack but for the collection and composting service and has been priced using the same considerations as for brown bins.  In Ipswich, bins are free but council tax is higher.

 Council Tax

This year the rise in Council Tax was 2.45 %, a little higher than the 05/06 figure that was set by the outgoing LibDem/Labour administration at the end of a period when the government made a substantial move of the burden of taxation from national to local level.

After a lifetime of council tax and rates rises I want reductions achieved by not doing things that benefit bureaucrats but are of little value to tax payers, by ensuring that processes are not over complicated and that technology is used effectively where it can reduce cost.

Mid Suffolk have done this quite well as have Trading Standards at the County but it needs to be spread more widely within the County and to the Police. I do believe that Council Tax should be depressed artificially in election years by cutting services to the elderly or any other vulnerable group.

Schools reorganisation

On the closure of middle schools, Suffolk Liberal Democrats find it unacceptable that change is being forced through in areas where middle schools are doing well despite intense opposition from parents.  The programme intends to improve results, SATS and GCSE’s by less than 5%.  Schools in disadvantaged areas can be lagging national averages by 30% and with intensive work and help from experts teachers can bring such schools up to scratch.

If we solved the problems at our worst performing schools we would put the statistics right, improve the life of many pupils and ensure that they moved to an adult life as contributors to society, not people who need support.  Where is the down side?

One other difficulty with the current administrations plans is what will happen as the next government attempts to slash spending to reduce the national debt.  It is likely that school spending, Primary Capital Programme and Building Schools for the Future money will plunge and it will be impossible to complete the planed new buildings.

 School Budgets

I believe that charging schools for services such that used to be free, or making substantial increases in charges is just a way of producing “savings” in the County budget by taking cash from the ring fenced schools budget.  Ring fenced because the government do not want others to benefit from funds provided to improve education.  This practice should stop.

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