Council row deeply political

AS the row over county council social service cuts rumbles on, what we are seeing now is the flip-side of the arguments we had three years ago when council tax bills shot up by 18 per cent across Suffolk.

AS the row over county council social service cuts rumbles on, what we are seeing now is the flip-side of the arguments we had three years ago when council tax bills shot up by 18 per cent across Suffolk.

Back in 2003 the then Labour-Liberal Democrat administration said it was necessary to put up the county's element of council tax so steeply to raise the standard of social care in Suffolk.

Quite understandably the increase provoked outcry across the county. Many people, especially those on fixed incomes, found it very difficult to pay the extra tax.

This newspaper launched the Cap the Tax campaign and angry citizens got together to protest about the increase - a campaign which continues today.

Those campaigns are certainly worthwhile because they are a constant reminder to councillors that they cannot take their voters for granted.

It is fairly clear that the high council tax increase in 2003 was a key factor in the Conservatives' county council election victory in May last year.

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However there is a price to be paid for keeping the lid on council tax - and that is that there isn't as much money as some people would like to spend on council services.

And in Suffolk, social services is taking the brunt of the cuts which is provoking more protests.

Now this can be seen partly as a good old-fashioned political row - an argument between the basically-Tory position that taxes should be as low as possible and the basically-Labour belief that there should be enough money to look after those in need.

I know it's a simplistic generalisation, but it is at the root of the latest arguments over council spending.

What is especially ironic is that many of those who have campaigned against increasing council tax are pensioners - and that is also the group most affected by cuts to social services.

Of course they are different groups of pensioners - those worried about council taxes tend to be those who are basically fit and on fixed incomes above the level that are eligible for extra payments.

Those worried about the social service cuts are those who rely on these - whose only diversion from the drudgery of life is a visit to the day centre or who rely on carers to look after them.

I know there will be those who say it is possible to keep council tax low and pay for first-rate social services - but that would require cuts elsewhere.

Education cannot be touched, the government sets out exactly what can be spent on schools, but the council could stop maintaining roads, could close libraries, and reduce fire cover to the legal minimum.

It would cause howls of protest, but is this the solution?

People need to remember that they cannot have Rolls-Royce council services on a Reliant Robin budget.

RECYCLING recently seems to have become the latest council project to come under fire from people worried about how often rubbish is collected from their homes.

The more people I hear complaining about recycling, the more difficult I find it to understand what their problem is.

The latest salvo came in a Sunday newspaper which compared the recycling policies of councils across the country - it was causing mass confusion, it screamed.

As someone who lives in Ipswich and can understand what to put in my blue, black and brown bins, why should I be confused because there are different recycling rules in Gateshead and Lichfield?

Describing people who draw up recycling policies as “Green Gauleiters” is frankly offensive and stupid - the fact is that if the developed world doesn't recycle its waste then the planet is heading for oblivion.

We are not prepared to pay high enough council tax to have every bin emptied every week (see above) and therefore we have to be prepared to take action to prevent problems arising during hot weather - a squirt of ant powder seems to do the trick so far as maggots are concerned.

Frankly there is no reason why black and blue bins should overflow if people sort their rubbish properly - and if people are too stupid or too lazy to sort their rubbish then frankly they don't deserve anyone's sympathy.

Do people who whinge about having to recycle their rubbish really want to be remembered in centuries to come as the generation who knew about the damage they were causing to the planet but couldn't be bothered to do anything about it?

Frankly when you are given every help and encouragement to recycle, is it really too much trouble to spend a few seconds on helping to protect the planet?

THERE are times, not very often it must be said, when you have to feel sorry for John Prescott.

For months he's been coming under fire for having an affair, for being given presents by an American millionaire, and even for playing the “upper crust” game of croquet.

Now he's finally summed up the feelings of millions of people in this country, describing the American government's attitude to the Israel/Lebanon crisis as “crap” and he still comes under fire.

He was forced into the most half-hearted retraction I've ever heard - claiming that the comment came in a private conversation with MPs - and it is quite clear that he was expressing his honestly-held views.

And while it might not go down well with Tony Blair's pal Dubya, it's pretty clear he was also expressing the views of many - if not most - people in this country.

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