Lib Dems challenged to quit
FOUR Suffolk Conservative MPs have called on the Liberal Democrats to quit their joint administration with Labour at Suffolk County Council following the vote to increase council tax by 18.
By Graham Dines
FOUR Suffolk Conservative MPs have called on the Liberal Democrats to quit their joint administration with Labour at Suffolk County Council following the vote to increase council tax by 18.5%.
However, Lib Dem councillor Peter Monk has hit back – accusing the MPs of doing "absolutely nothing" to support the council seven years ago when it's funding was being squeezed by the Tory government.
In their letter to Mr Monk, the MPs – Richard Spring (West Suffolk), Tim Yeo (South Suffolk), John Gummer (Suffolk Coastal) and David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) claim that in the past five years, the Labour-Lib Dem administration at county hall has passed council tax rises in Suffolk 40% higher than the national average.
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They add: "This has become an increasing burden on many in Suffolk, especially those on fixed incomes. None of this would have happened without the active support and connivance of the Lib Dems at county hall, who are propping up the council and agreeing to these swingeing and unjustifiable year-on-year increases.
"If you feel the revenue support grant from central government is inadequate, you should be arguing and campaigning remorselessly for a better deal, rather than rolling over and allowing our Suffolk constituents to be given more tax punishment."
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The MPs say it is "high time" that Suffolk Lib Dems withdrew "forthwith from this discredited, tax-hiking administration at county hall."
Mr Monk agreed that part of the blame for the council's spending plans lay with the Government, which had diverted £20million of cash aid to the north of England. Neighbouring Tory councils – Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire – were in the same boat, and they had all cut services as well as raising tax.
But he added: "Where were the MPs up until 1997 when we pleaded with the Government – and don't forget, it was John Gummer who as Environment Secretary starved the county council of cash – to help us out?
"We went to see ministers when 20% was lopped of our highways allocation, but we got no help whatsoever from Conservative MPs. And it was the previous Tory council that gleefully took a pensions holiday at the behest of John Major's government, landing us with a £40million shortfall which we now have to make up."