Cuts in firing line as parties take aim at coalition

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NONE of the parties contesting next month’s elections can escape the shadow of the coalition government’s austerity drive.

The cuts imposed on local authorities to bring down the UK’s deficit have affected everything from bin collections and library opening hours, to funding for charities and youth services.

And because the two dominant parties across this region are in power nationally, the most ferocious opposition has come from smaller parties such as the Trade Unionists and Socialists Coalition, which has fielded six candidates in Portsmouth and rejects budget cuts entirely.

The city trades council president and Copnor candidate Mick Tosh said: ‘When faced with government cuts to council funding, Portsmouth council should refuse to implement cuts.

‘I will support the council using, in the first instance, the reserves and prudent borrowing powers to avoid passing on the cuts.’

In Fareham, the Labour party hasn’t had a councillor in 10 years but candidate for Portchester East Richard Ryan is hoping the party’s more measured opposition to austerity will win votes.

He said: ‘The reaction on the doorsteps has been positive and we are hoping to pick up seats.

‘There have been lots of cuts across local government and, if we were in power nationally, we could review what has been done. On a local level we would dearly like to bring back weekly bin collections.’

But for the Tory leader of Gosport Borough Council Cllr Mark Hook, who is defending his seat in Alverstoke, the situation presents opportunities as well as challenges.

‘I don’t think anyone is happy about it,’ he said. ‘But it does offer us a chance to look at how we can do things better and more efficiently.

‘What we did was put out to tender all our main services and we have managed to find £10m worth of savings over 15 years. It has led to us delivering better services at a cheaper price.’

While for Cllr Kelsie Learney, the leader of Winchester City Council’s Lib Dems who are defending seats in Wickham and Whiteley, the cuts mean that local people have more of a role to play.

‘Parish councils will have to do their part,’ she said. ‘And we have to look at how we can tap into volunteers.’