I’m perplexed by the headline-grabbing claims of the Lib Dem candidates in the lead up to the forthcoming elections.
They claim that they will reduce the council tax precept, but don’t say how they intend to do so. Each year, Great Aycliffe Town Council undertakes a comprehensive budget review. This process takes approximately three months to undertake and all budget lines are looked at and trimmed wherever possible. The Lib Dems somehow feel there are great savings to be made. I can only assume they propose to reduce services that the council provides, perhaps the OAP trips, Fun in the Parks, Santa Tours and/or the firework display; perhaps grass cutting and/or the wonderful floral beds around the town; perhaps the Oakleaf Complex and/or the golf course and putting green; perhaps the allotments and/or the cemeteries. You can’t make significant budget cuts by reducing the amount of photocopying paper used each year. Nor can this be done by not purchasing leather-bound pocket diaries (I have to point out here that the much quoted pocket diaries given to Councillors to keep track of Council meetings, cost £2.83 each. They have a pvc cover and are certainly not leather bound). It is worthy of note that budgetary overview and review requires an eye for detail.
They claim they will organise a community governance review into the number of Councillors representing the people of Aycliffe. The number of Councillors sitting on our Council were recommended by the Boundary Commission, not by the Council or the Councillors. Our town is growing exponentially and at some point, new Wards may be created, especially on the far side of the A167. I would point out that the last time the Lib Dems arranged a community governance review, it was to call for re-establishing the Durham City Council. The cost of setting up the new council, which ran into tens of thousands of pounds, was borne by the council tax payers of County Durham, including residents of Aycliffe. The people of Durham City may have gained a parish Council, but they now have to pay for two Councils in their council tax bill. Durham City Council is a toothless entity with DCC still bearing the cost of Britain in Bloom flower displays in the City, upkeep of parks, Lumierre, Durham Brass and so on. Perhaps the Lib Dems can explain how this great venture of theirs saved people money.
They also claim they will reinvigorate the Town Centre. This is something that everyone in the Town, I among them, would like to happen. Sadly the high rent yields of the retail units discourage potential businesses moving into the town. Daejan (Durham) Ltd., the current owners, do not appear to be in a hurry to reduce their rents any time soon. I’d be interested to hear how the Lib Dems plan to progress this election promise and would happily work alongside anyone interested in bringing a vibrant heart back to the town centre.
Cllr Jed Hillary