Carla and I attended a council pre-meeting at Lancaster Town Hall last week; of course I was only there as an observer and nominated driver but Carla was there in her role as newly elected city councillor.
With around 26 new councillors being elected this time, Carla and I were excited at the prospect of discussing ideas and innovation for the area with all these enthusiastic, like minded individuals who had put themselves forward to represent their communities.
Like everyone else, I’d read about the £1 bn worth of investment that has supposedly created a bottleneck of funding in Morecambe and Lunesdale and I was eager to see where this was to be spent and how it would impact on local communities.
I have to say that it wasn’t long before my enthusiasm waned and reality struck home, there’s no sign of the magic billion, and the biggest challenge that the new councillors are going to have to face is how to cope with severe cuts which are being imposed by the Government.
Since 2010 the council’s funding has been reduced by nearly £9 m and there are further cuts of £3.5 m over the next two years. I was astounded at the severity of these cuts and amazed that the council has been able to maintain essential services during the past five years.
I have to admit that I’ve been one of the council’s biggest critics recently; criticising them for lack of vision and lack of commitment to projects which I believe they should be supporting.
I can now understand, to a degree, the reasoning behind some of the council’s decisions and attitude (although I still believe that the city council concentrates too much time and resources in Lancaster and should give more consideration to Morecambe and the other rural areas).
I know that this is a contentious issue however, whether it’s fact or just public perception, councillors are going to have to deal with it.
With further cuts looming, I believe that the council are going to need every ounce of enthusiasm and every innovative brain cell that the newly elected members can muster in order to ensure that our area not only survives, but has a chance to prosper.
We cannot afford to sit back and feel sorry for ourselves. We face a minimum of another five years of diminishing funding so, without new, real money coming in we will see further service cuts or our council will simply run out of money. Not even Annette and her brilliant staff at Morecambe Bay Foodbank could help if that happened.
Being a new councillor Carla is receiving invites to visit various groups and bodies. At first I thought ‘great, I can sneak off to play golf whilst she’s away’ but it hasn’t worked out like that.
I’m told that I need to learn how to operate ‘Sage Accounting’ so that I can stop at work and cover her job whilst she’s away.