From the blog of Claire Wright – the MP we needed and should have had.
“Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Every Devon Conservative MP voted in favour of massive cuts to councils this afternoon, except Anne Marie Morris who abstained.
This includes Hugo Swire, who today rather ironically tweeted an article starting with the sentence: “I’m not very rebellious by nature and I don’t think I have ever defied the party whip…”
Devon County Council had written to Devon MPs last month, urging them to vote against the crippling cuts for the third year running and I had written to Hugo Swire also for the third year running, with exactly the same request.
Last night, Devon County Council leader, Cllr John Hart told the BBC he thought the government handling of the local government finance arrangements was a “shambles” because the council was legally forced to set its budget before even receiving the details of the latest round of funding from government.
Then the funding news was received at 11pm on Monday night just 36 hours before MPs would be examining the information for debate and vote in parliament.
John Hart although a conservative council leader, has the guts to stand up to his party seniors at Westminster and openly criticise them. Something he does often and he should be given credit for this.
What a shame our MPs aren’t made of similar stern stuff.
On a more serious note, and this is serious, I was pretty shocked at the paltry numbers of MPs who were present for the debate this afternoon. I think I counted about 30, for what should have been an absolutely key parliamentary sitting as its impact on constituents, especially vulnerable people, is likely to be significant.
Local government secretary of state, Sajid Javid uttered a few warm but empty words about what a fine job councils do, before explaining that they will get no government funding whatsoever after 2019. They will be expected to survive on business rates and council tax income only after this.
This is the seventh year of austerity and Devon County Council has now lost over half of its budget to government cuts. It has coped as best it can but studying the risk assessments in the budget scrutiny papers last month made for sobering reading.
Returning to the subject of the sadly expected but weak-willed vote by East Devon’s MP, Hugo Swire, how can he justify on the one hand complaining about underfunding for social care – the responsibility of Devon County Council and underfunding of our schools – also under Devon County Council – and then be absent during the parliamentary funding cuts debate, sneaking to the lobby only afterwards to vote in favour of the cuts?
The answer is he can’t. He has simply proved once again that he puts his party before his constituents.