THURROCK Council Leader, Cllr John Kent says the Prime Minister should visit Thurrock to “see how a real council is run”.
He told members of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday (9 March) that he had been listening to Essex County Council leader Cllr David Finch on the radio earlier this week.
He said he had heard Cllr Finch “bemoaning the government cuts in his budget, saying he’s going to have to close libraries and children’s centres; saying he’s inviting the Prime Minister to Essex to see how a real council works”.
But he added: “If he deigns to visit Essex to see how a real council works, perhaps he should come to Thurrock to see how a real council provides the same services as a county and more, without a billion-pound budget, in fact on a budget a fraction the size of the county’s.
“Mr Cameron should come to Thurrock and see how a real council, with the lowest council tax in the county is actually opening a new library – in Purfleet, is, unlike Essex County Council, keeping the street lights on and continues with a weekly refuse service.
“In fact, perhaps Cllr Finch should come and see how it’s done”, although he added: “Cllr Finch’s message is an important one. After six years of cut, cut, cut, and six years of save, save, save, it is getting difficult to find new ways of doing things.”
Cllr Kent was speaking about Thurrock’s budget and pressures on that budget, saying: “This report makes it stark and clear. Recommendation two states we have to identify Â£18Â½ million through a combination of additional income and cost reduction over the period 2017/18 to 2019/20. Another Â£18Â½ million on top of what we’ve done so far.”
He warned that although Thurrock had worked hard to maintain and protect front line services as far as possible, “in the coming years as government funding continues to shrink our options are being reduced bit-by-bit”.
He said: “We have to boost income, sell our services, use Gloriana and use our treasury management to even greater effect; we have to do the same for less, or to be more accurate, we have to do even more for less; and we have to look at managing demand through early intervention and prevention.
“If we fail in this, there will be no alternative; we will need to concentrate our efforts on those services we must provide by law and prioritise the others, the discretionary services.
“And there will be a gap. Although we agreed a balanced budget for this coming financial year, we know there are already pressures – and not of this council’s making.”
He said that one of the pressures facing Thurrock involved Essex County Council which is “still waiting on Serco to provide it with final figures for the pension pot – three months after we terminated the contract.
“We know there is a liability, but until Serco provide the figures, we don’t know exactly what it is – we’re assuming the worst.”