Is Lewes town being punished?

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Local government everywhere is being hammered by this Con-Dem government’s austerity measures, as well as being restricted by the cap on the increase in the council tax it can levy, so it is not surprising that LDC is seeking alternative ways to pay for local services.

It has lighted upon a little-known measure that does not theoretically breach the cap, but that is guaranteed to set people against each other and destroy any sense of community across Lewes district.

It could also be seen as a punishment of Lewes town itself for not voting any Tory councillors onto LDC. Basically if a service is provided to one part of a district that is not available elsewhere, then a ‘special expense’ charge can be levied to cover this so-called special treatment.

In this case, LDC has looked at open spaces and decreed that Lewes has far more than its fair share, even though sports players from across the district use the Convent Field, Malling playing field and the Stanley Turner Ground, for instance, to partake in league and other area-wide fixtures.

It has therefore allocated all the cost of maintaining open spaces in Lewes to Lewes rate payers, resulting in an increase of some £56 per annum for a band D council tax payer.

But what can be done? Yes, a petition has been circulated with the aim of reopening the debate about special expenses on the district council and lots of local people have signed it. Unfortunately, none of them elected any member of the Tory cabinet with all the power on LDC, all of whom are more interested in keeping their own voters sweet elsewhere in the district. We do not believe, therefore, that a new debate will be permitted by them and, indeed, we believe that they will include the pernicious special expenses in next year’s budget now that they have retained control of the council.

For this reason, if a Green Party councillor represented Priory Ward, s/he would have voted at the recent meeting for a Lib Dem leader to replace the current Tory one, thereby helping to return the council to Lib Dem control.

Now Greens have no love of Liberal Democrats, but we do believe they would have taken steps to remove the hated special expense regime from next year’s budget. In return for our support, we would have demanded a commitment to ensuring that LDC land in North Street is used to provide truly affordable social housing. A Green would have voted for the common good.

Lewes Green Party is fundamentally opposed to this special expenses regime being imposed by a Tory-run council as being totally unfair to Lewes and supports efforts by the town council to get all such assets devolved to the town council. This would give much more local control and Lewes residents could be assured that they would not wake up one day to find one of their playing fields sold off for a water park, or whatever.

Susan Murray

Lewes Green Party