By Councillor Gareth Snell, Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council.
Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council
Councillor Gareth Snell
We are undeniably facing a cost of living crisis. While the government of millionaires continue to spin statistics to talk up a recovery, the truth is that any economic improvement is not being felt in the pockets of people in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
We’re not an affluent area. We’re a Borough of normal, decent, hard-working people who are simply trying to get on and build a better life for themselves and their families.
As a council committed to addressing the problems that exist in our communities, Labour Councillors know that our priority has to be tackling the cost of living crisis that affects so many people that we represent.
Newcastle Borough Council is facing the harshest cuts in its existence. Having already lost 51% of our Government support grant since the Tory-led coalition came to power, we face losing another 45% in the next four years.
Yet, since Labour took control in 2012, we as a Labour Council have reduced senior management staff in order to freeze Council Tax and keep pounds in the pockets of our residents. We have also pledged to once again freeze Council Tax in our 2014/15 budget.
This is a stark contrast to flagship Tory Councils in Staffordshire – Tamworth and Lichfield – who have raised Council Tax, putting an extra charge disproportionally on those least able to pay.
Labour-run Newcastle Borough Council has also frozen car-parking charges for the second year running, compared to the six-years of Tory rule in Newcastle which saw parking charges hike by around 30%.
Our parking charge freeze hasn’t just helped keep the cost of living down for shoppers, but it has also boosted trade for our struggling independent retailers who are suffering a cost of living crisis as the Tory-led coalition continues to increase business rate and to fail to get a grip on bank lending for Small and Medium Enterprises.
Newcastle Borough Council, like so many other Labour Councils, opted to become a Living Wage employer, ensuing that our lowest paid staff are paid a proper day’s pay for a proper day’s work. It is a scandal when being employed and going to work does not cover even the basic bills.
The answer is not, as the Tory-led coalition says, to slash in work benefits but to provide a Living Wage and help create well-paid, skilled jobs for local people. Economic growth built on low-pay and part time work is not a recovery that will help the people we serve in Newcastle.
By adopting the commitment to be a Living Wage employer, Labour-run Newcastle is now championing a living wage to our partners and our contractors to ensure the benefits are felt as wide and as far as possible.
These are just three areas where Labour values being implemented by a Labour Council have shown what can be achieved.
It has drawn a difference between us and the Tories, and has shown those we represent that Labour understand what needs to be done to secure an economic recovery that works for everyone and not just those at the top.