At Leicester’s last full Council meeting (on November 26), Cllr Patrick Kitterick argued against the necessity of further attacks upon Leicestershire’s frontline fire services, all the more so because money was being stockpiled in the local fire authority’s bank accounts — or their reserves.
“Essentially reserves are rainy day money,” Cllr Kitterick pointed out, “and we’ll need a lot of rainy days if the number of fire engines are cut in the city as planned”. He added, that “when the choice comes between a healthy reserve and fire services that are cut and degraded… or safe services for both the city and county… then we must choose safe fire services.”
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby responded saying: “Cllr Kitterick is entirely right, that the provision of frontline services is what matters, not what you have kept back in the bank for a rainy day.”
Shockingly this admission comes from the same Soulsby, who, earlier this year, with the support of the entire Labour council, added a tidy £7 million to the Council’s reserves, topping them up to an obscene £54 million.
Notably this decision was made in the face of a fiscally responsible and totally legal counterproposal, which argued for the urgent need to spend this £7 million right now, so as to prevent further cuts to frontline services.
This simple socialist proposal was put forward by Leicester’s two TUSC councillors, Wayne Naylor and Barbara Potter, and was intended to act as an inspiring alternative to Labour’s (then) spineless accceptance of Tory lies about austerity.
With his apparent change of heart, one can only wonder if Soulsby’s views on the spending of the fire authority reserves will apply to the use of his own Council’s reserves.
If this was the case, in the short-term at least, frontline services in Leicester would no longer need to be cut, and the people of Leicester would have the opportunity to join Jeremy Corbyn’s valliant fight-back against the politics of cuts and austerity.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on December 1.
Transcript of Council meeting (November 26) http://www.leicester.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/196379/start_time/1717000
Cllr Patrick Kitterick: “While the creation of a reserve is desirable, essentially reserves are rainy day money, and we’ll need a lot of rainy days if the number of fire engines are cut in the city as planned, because there won’t be any fire engines to put out the fires. Lord Mayor, while a reserve is desirable, I believe it was Nye Bevan that said, er that we — and I always get this quote wrong, so please forgive me if I botch it slightly — ‘the language of priorities is the religion of socialism.’ And can I ask the Lord Mayor, as a fellow socialist, that when the choice comes between a healthy reserve and fire services that are cut and degraded, so that the city and county are unsafe, or safe services for both the city and county, and maybe a reserve not as high as recommended by the chief finance officer, then we must choose safe fire services.”
Sir Peter Soulsby: “Councillor Kitterick is entirely right, err that, the provision of frontline services is what matters, not what you have kept back in the bank for a rainy day as he quite rightly describes it, and I do agree with him entirely.”