February 13, 2013 10.37 am This story is over 131 months old

Calling for more council cuts is not representing Lincoln

Representing Lincoln: Lucy Rigby argues that the Lincoln MP’s Parliamentary question on council cuts is not in the interest of city residents and turns people off politics.

Last week Lincoln’s Tory MP since 2010, backbencher Karl McCartney, spoke in Parliament. He chose to make a statement in a debate about his government’s cuts to the amount that local city and county councils receive from central government.

Specifically, Mr McCartney spoke about the City of Lincoln Council, saying he hoped that, despite the considerably lesser funding it receives, it will make further “efficiency savings”. He gave several examples of supposed council extravagance, with the implication that City of Lincoln Council could survive on even less, and indeed could therefore receive an even bigger cut to its budget.

As many readers of The Lincolnite are aware, the city council has seen its funding cut dramatically by central government – nearly 30% until 2014. Council Leader Ric Metcalfe has made clear in the local press that, despite making considerable cutbacks year on year in an attempt to survive the fundings cuts, it is likely that this year, the city council will have to stop providing certain services and to start charging for others.

Obviously, this is to the ultimate detriment of our city and its residents. Council Leader Metcalfe noted most recently that it is likely that, at some point, the council’s much valued CCTV may have to go. It is clear that, were this to happen, it would have a follow-on effect (possibly a very significant one) on public safety and on crime prevention in Lincoln. Whenever I’ve spoken to residents about CCTV, people seem to want more of it, not less. I would have thought that given incidents such as the knife-point robberies this week, CCTV would remain popular with residents.

Despite the impact of the central coalition government’s funding cuts on Lincoln, our MP spoke in Parliament not to defend our city but to encourage his government to give us even less. Personally, I entirely fail to see how this is compatible with “representing” Lincoln.

Mr McCartney made clear in Parliament that he wished to criticise the city council only when it has been run by the local Labour Party; in fact he actually praised Lincs Tories for a recent period when they ran the city council. Unfortunately however, Mr McCartney confused his dates, accidentally highlighting a trip to China by his own Tory city councillors in 2011 at the taxpayers’ expense — a terrific waste of money at a time of tight resources which Lincoln Labour criticised at the time.

It is clear that Mr McCartney is putting his own narrow party bias ahead of representing Lincoln residents. It should not matter which local political party controls the city council, what matters is that Lincoln’s council (and therefore residents and services) are being adversely affected. We need a representative in Parliament who is going to stick up for our city, certainly not one who will encourage further detriment to it.

If I were Lincoln’s MP and the city council was run by a Tory or a Liberal Democrat administration which I thought was serving Lincoln residents well, I can’t imagine going out of my way to run it down publicly in Westminster just because of its political colour. On the contrary, I believe we really ought to be trying to limit slavish, tribal party bias in our political system – not only is it bad for representation, it also turns people off politics.

Editor’s note: Also read Lincoln MP Karl McCartney’s unedited column on the topic of his Parliamentary question on his website.

Lucy Rigby is Lincoln Labour's candidate to be the city's next MP. She is a solicitor and lives in central Lincoln.