UK coalition partners protest deep funding cuts
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Last Updated: Thursday, February 10, 2011, 21:47
London: Leaders of the Liberal Democrats party, the main ally in the UK coalition government, have rebelled against the scale and depth of public funding cuts that will adversely affect services of local councils.

The protest by senior Liberal Democrat leaders is significant since the party is in a coalition with the Conservatives and a party to all decisions to cut public funding intended to reduce burgeoning fiscal deficit.

After major cuts in university funding and hike in fees were announced, students went on a rampage on the streets of London, while lecturers and professors went on a strike at the University of the West of England in Bristol today.

In a letter to the Times newspaper, signed by 17 council leaders and 71 local Liberal Democrat chiefs, the depth of frustration felt by party councillors over the "difficult cuts package" has been highlighted. They say the cuts have hit local government the hardest.

The Liberal Democrats' anger is levelled against the Conservative Secretary of State for Communities, Eric Pickles, whom they accuse of "gunboat diplomacy" and being "unwilling to lead the change that is so desperately needed".

"These cuts will have an undoubted impact on all frontline council services," they wrote.

"Rather than assist the country's recovery by making savings to the public in a way that can protect local economies and the front line, the cuts are structured in such a way that they will do the opposite," the leaders said.

They said instead of chastising and denigrating local authorities through the media, "the government should deploy all its efforts to help councils minimise the impact on vulnerable communities and frontline services."

Dave Prentis, the leader of the public sector union Unison, said Liberal Democrat councillors charged with implementing cuts were "waking up to the dangers".

"It's no wonder that cracks are appearing this fast and this early ? it's in tune with the accelerated speed and scale of the Tory-led cuts. The damage and dislocation the cuts cause threatens to undermine stability in communities across the UK, leading to social unrest," he said.

Richard Kemp, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group at the Local Government Association and one of the signatories to the letter, said the councillors were not seeking to split the party, stressing that he had "no intention" of quitting.

But he said the Cameron government would regret the cuts.


First Published: Thursday, February 10, 2011, 21:47

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