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Posted on 23 March 2011 at 10:04 GMT

Bracknell Tories' snouts in the trough

At the Bracknell Forest council meeting on 2 March the large Tory majority forced through cuts to jobs and services, especially to youth services.

Terry and Val Pearce

In spite of rising unemployment in the Bracknell area, the Tories slashed the grant to the Connexions service that offers employment and education help to young people.

In Bracknell, traditionally a low unemployment area, we now have more than six jobseekers for every available job. The small Labour group opposed the Tory budget proposals, however the Tory majority easily won the vote.

In a further slap in the face for the sacked staff and service users the Tories resisted an attempt to cut back on their generous councillors' allowances.

The Labour opposition moved an amendment reducing the allowances by 20% which would have saved 117,000 to be used on youth services. The Tories voted unanimously to hang on to their `pay` as they described it.

It must be borne in mind that councillors in Bracknell pay themselves approaching 600,000 collectively per year in allowances.

This is much higher than any other local authority in the Berkshire area, higher than Slough and Reading which are bigger authorities with far wider social problems.

The local Defend Our Community Services campaign has consistently opposed these allowances especially when council jobs are going and services are being cut.

We have taken the issue to the press and made the front page plus an editorial supporting our position in a recent issue of the local paper. Defend Our Community Services is producing a leaflet for the May elections exposing the Tories' inflated allowances.

Labour Party candidates have committed to a 20% cut to allowances if elected, though not to a standpoint of rejecting all cuts to services. We will be intervening in marginal seats with our leaflets calling for candidates to defend our local services.

We are clear that next year Bracknell's frontline services will be under threat, and although we got off fairly lightly this year due to a relatively generous settlement from the coalition government, next year the situation will be different.

The Tories, with the elections in May, have soft peddled on cuts to services this time. We are not fooled and will be building to fight them head on to save our services.

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