Burnham MP Tessa Munt attacks local MPs over £11m cutbacks
Burnham-On-Sea MP and current Lib Dem councillor Tessa Munt has
this week slammed Conservative MPs representing Somerset for failing
to gain Westminsters backing to sort out the County Councils
County Council has announced an additional £11 million round
of cuts on top of the £11 million announced in February.
council is slashing 130 jobs and has approved a number of cutbacks
including the removal of funding for Citizens Advice Bureau services
and a reduction in the winter road gritting network from 23 to 16
routes - including gritting
routes in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge this winter.
Munt, pictured, said this week: "When even the Conservative
leader of the Council says he feels abandoned by the
five local Conservative MPs, you know theres a massive disconnect
between what these MPs promised when they ran for election in 2017
and what they are delivering now."
aren't in Parliament simply to file into the lobby to support the
Conservative Government every time theres a vote. They promised
to do their best for local people - and each and every one of them
is failing to do that."
plenty that could be done by the Conservative Government to prevent
this Conservative-run Council sliding inexorably towards bankruptcy,
and the inevitable crisis that will cause for the most vulnerable
members of our community."
every one of our MPs is sitting on his or her hands. They failed
miserably to make the savings they hoped for last year, so how on
earth do they think theyre going to make £22 million
of cuts this year?"
if they dont, spending will slip further into the red, which
means Westminster-appointed Commissioners coming in to run the Councils
maintains that the Countys five Conservative MPs should have
been lobbying hard for the Government to put Somerset into the pilot
project to allow the County to keep its Business Rates instead
of the money being "siphoned off" to Westminster.
says: "The Government promised that rural counties like ours
would receive this support back in 2016 but have failed to
deliver. Any MP worth his or her salt would be holding the Ministers
feet to the fire now - to get this money to us."
have also argued that Government should allow Councils to raise
extra money for Childrens Care, in the same way that they
have done for adult social care. For the cost of a cup of coffee
a week, another £4 million could go to protect vulnerable
has thrown down the gauntlet to the Countys MPs to come and
speak to Councillors and be briefed on the part they could
and should - play in dealing with the crisis.
council's leader David Fothergill said the model for funding local
authorities is "broken" and it was "absolutely the
most difficult set of decisions we have had to consider" in
making the necessary cutbacks.
MP James Heappey responded: "A press release circulated by
a PR firm working for Councillor Tessa Munt has drawn ridicule after
forgetting that whilst serving as the Member of Parliament, their
client voted in favour of cuts to Somerset County Councils
budget in each of the five years she was in Westminster. As a result
of her votes to reduce Somersets grants from central government,
funding fell during her tenure by nearly £30 million per year
nearly twice the current shortfall in the councils
"More disturbing still is that her PR agency dont seem
to understand that Somerset is spending £15.4 million this
year in interest on the debts left by the Lib Dems when they were
in charge at County Hall. If her party colleagues had not been so
reckless in saddling Somerset with hundreds of millions of pounds
of debt a decade ago, Somerset residents wouldnt now be paying
almost as much in interest as were spending on maintaining
"When the savings the county council are seeking are less
than the interest being paid on the Lib Dem debt, Id have
thought shed be better asking her PR team to issue an apology
rather than such a nakedly political and factually inaccurate press
release. This really is a spectacular own goal from Councillor Munt."
Mr Heappey says he held lengthy meetings with the leader of the
county council in January, May and July in which hed been
briefed on the financial challenges facing the council.
Over that period Mr Heappey says he was working with other Somerset
MPs to lobby Government for more money and he continues to do so.
Whilst chairing the Rural Fair Share Campaign, Mr Heappey says he
was instrumental in securing a review into the funding formula for
allocating money to local councils. He is also pushing hard for
Somerset to be included in the next phase of the Business Rates
Mr Heappey added: "Ill take no lessons from Councillor
Munt given that she voted for these cuts in Parliament and shes
shown no remorse for the levels of debt her party colleagues have
left Somerset residents to pay off. It is telling that whilst just
about every other county councillor in the Wells Constituency
including other Lib Dems - has been in touch to talk about the situation
at County Hall and my work in Parliament to support the council,
Councillor Munt hasnt made contact at all. I know that she
is busy trying to stop Brexit and campaigning for a General Election
in 2022 but Im happy to work with people from all parties
for the good of our community. She only needs to find the time to
get in touch."