Budget offers a chance for change

Martin Lee
Martin Lee

Councillors are busy at the moment reviewing the Mayor’s proposals for his budget for 2014/2015.

We have to decide whether we can support the Mayor’s plans for financing the services the Council provides.

This gets more difficult each year as the Coalition Government cuts the amount of financial assistance it gives to councils. It is worth remembering the responsibilities of the Council.

We are the biggest landlord in the district, providing 6,800 homes. We are an important provider of commercial properties.

We are responsible for refuse collection and waste recycling.

We look after public health through our environmental services. We provide and maintain parks and green spaces including allotments. We are responsible for providing cemeteries.

Our anti-social behaviour team and neighbourhood wardens act to combat nuisance conduct so the law abiding majority can live peaceful lives. Our parenting practitioner intervenes with problem families to help them to change their behaviour and lead better lives.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but gives everyone an idea of how important the work of the Council is to the communities of Mansfield.

Labour councillors’ priorities are to maintain and improve services in these testing financial times as we believe if we are to have secure, prosperous communities we need the public sector to play a full role in supporting all our people.

We oppose the Mayor’s plans to increase fees and charges made by the Council for certain of its services as we recognise that people are struggling with the cost of living crisis.

At this time households should not face more demands on their incomes by the Council to use services like garden waste collections and sporting facilities.

Despite the reduction in support from central government the Council has reserves of money that have been built up over the years to cover possible eventualities.

It is of course important to guard against future risks but there has to be a balanced approach and the Mayor needs to recognise that investment in the town is what is needed now.

The Council can safely spend some of its reserves to assist the regeneration of the district of Mansfield with carefully directed financial support to local businesses to create jobs.

We want to see an increase in the Council’s apprenticeship schemes.

An economic stimulus fund from Council reserves could finance grant and loan schemes to local small businesses to keep them growing and creating jobs.

Our town centres, allowed to decline for too long, require investment to bring empty buildings back into use either as shops or flats.

We need to save our town centre market from years of neglect by looking at ways to attract more stall holders.

This year’s budget is the Council’s chance to bring change to our district with sensible, directedinvestment.

To do nothing is no longer an option.

Martin Lee

Leader, Labour group Mansfield District Council