IT WAS with great interest that I read your correspondence with David Cameron, splashed across national headlines last week, which painted a clear picture of a prime minister with only a tenuous grasp on the realities of the demands he has made on local authorities such as Oxfordshire, where he also happens to be an MP.
I hope you’ll agree with me that there’s a point where cuts can no longer be the solution to balancing the books. Personally I think we’re already well beyond that line in the sand.
So I’m confused by your own position on government policy, given that you continue to publicly affirm that you share Mr Cameron’s blind faith in the blunt instrument of austerity as the answer to all our problems.
You’ve also made much of the statistic that two per cent of the county’s population consumes 50 per cent of the finances. I’m sure the old, the sick and infirm are a great drain on our public services, but in a modern society surely those people should expect to be looked after by those of us who are better able to do so?
Should Oxfordshire pensioners be made fearful of putting their heating on this winter but be comforted as they shiver in the dark that they are “doing their bit”?
I really feel that you have to come down on one side of the fence or the other here. You can’t continue to support the cuts in public while apparently opposing them in private. As leader of the county council, the people of Oxfordshire deserve an unequivocal statement of your aims and allegiances.
You will no doubt be aware that Mr Cameron’s intervention in Oxford has now prompted requests from over 100 other councils to have a similar direct consultation with him over budget pressures.
He also faces accusations of ministerial impropriety over his intervention with you.
So perhaps now would be a good time for hard-pressed council leaders such as yourself to make a firmer stand. You could set an example and refuse to pass what you have already told the PM is an impossible budget to balance in any morally defensible way. I know such actions come with potential repercussions, but if other council leaders followed your lead, how many mutinies could Westminster really handle? This could be your place in history calling!
Alternatively you could join the drive for the abolition or raising of the now outdated two per cent referendum threshold on council tax increases.
I think the people of Oxfordshire would welcome your further engagement with the PM on their behalf and with local activists on these matters.
Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Banbury