Lively debate on spending cuts

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PUBLIC spending cuts are justified and needed.

That was the verdict of the majority of the dozens of people in attendance at a keenly contested meeting between the Friends of Scarborough Library and the Scarborough Forty Club, held at the library on Saturday.

Proposing the motion “This house proposes that public spending cuts are justified and needed” were Colin Wigglesworth and Ray Clarke, who were opposed by Maria Billington and Colin Challen, before the debate was opened up to the public.

The event ended in a closely-contested vote, which saw the motion passed by 24 votes to 21.

Mr Wigglesworth, a retired boatbuilder, said: “We definitely do need cuts in public spending, but where should they be? That’s the most important question.

“You can easily work out what benefit to society your own job is.

“There have been too many non-jobs created in local Government.

“That’s where you need cuts and that’s where it really needs to be looked at.”

Mencap volunteer Ray Clarke said: “The main headline blocking everything moving forward is ‘blame the bankers’ but did they tell you to spend yourself into debt? They didn’t tell me, they didn’t tell my children. Yes, they have a lot to answer for but that’s not the primary issue.

“There are cuts needed. Let’s look at it and see how we can achieve it with less pain instead of saying: ‘Not me Guv.’”

Arguing against the motion, concert promoter and actor Mrs Billington said: “One of the main cuts is library cuts – over 400 in the country. It is the start of a slippery slope – once you start with cuts you never stop.

“The cuts are going for the vulnerable, for the needy, the people who have the least. Forty five per cent of subsidies are going to be taken off the buses. Who does that affect? Not people who have one or two cars but people trying to seek jobs, people trying to get into town – the lonely, the vulnerable, people like that.

“The very fabric of our society is being attacked.”

Scarborough-born Mr Challen, who was a Labour MP for the constituency of Morley and Rothwell in Westminster between 2001 and 2010, said: “Economics is a dismal science. There are always alternative economics, it never points down the exact path you take to resolve a problem.

“I have no objection to cuts where you do become genuinely efficient.

“The kind of cuts proposed in this motion are unacceptable, unsustainable and reduce our chances of avoiding a double dip recession.”

Scarborough Council is looking at cutting at least 50 jobs in a bid to balance its budget for the next financial year in the wake of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

The authority must save £2.1million on its 2011/12 budget and around £1.3million of savings each year thereafter as it aims to save £6million over the next four years.

A questionnaire was sent out to 6,000 households in the area to see which public services residents felt should be cut. More than 92 per cent of residents urged the council to slash the mayoral and civic budget and more than three quarters wanted cuts in grants to the area committees.

North Yorkshire County Council is aiming to find savings of £69million over the next four years and has already announced measures to reduce spending, while police spending is also being reduced by 16 per cent.

The Forty Club, which has the motto “We do not all think alike, but we all alike agree to think”, is celebrating its 112th year. Its records go back more than a century, providing a record of the 1,700 talks that members have conducted.

The group meets on Thursday evenings from October to March at the Friends Meeting House, Woodlands Drive, at 7.30pm.