Claire Wright, the Devon County Councillor and Independent candidate running against the current MP, Hugo Swire, at the General Election, has challenged her opponent.

“On 10th February, the House of Commons will be deciding on Council Budget cuts for the next financial year. The leader of the Conservative-led Devon County Council, which has secured savings of £128 million since 2009, has warned that further cuts of £50 million will have to be made in the next financial year and another £34 million in the following year.

“In the past, Mr Swire, you have voted for annual cuts without even making an argument on behalf of your constituents. As your website still claims that you were ‘sent to the Commons to speak up and vote for the people of East Devon’, speak up now!

“The hard-pressed people in our constituency, not least the large number of carers who face problems as the local NHS struggles to cope on an unfair grant, need help. We are confronted with the prospect of more savage cuts which will cause massive hardship, especially to those who are already severely penalised by earlier reductions in expenditure. They are often the people least able to cope with the cuts and many of them find it hard to believe that ‘we are all in this together’”. 

Claire Wright continued. “Devon is the third largest county in England, has a higher than average-age local population, a lower population density and is the destination for huge numbers of holiday makers. Their needs, too, must be catered for if tourism, a key factor in the local economy, is to be sustained. The county cannot stand any more swingeing cuts. Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that many in the constituency would have to visit food banks?

“The relatively less difficult cuts in expenditure have already caused genuine hardship. Now the prospect of even more reductions implies a bleak future for thousands already suffering from the impact of earlier decreases. More cuts will make it even more difficult to meet core duties in protecting children, the vulnerable and the elderly.

“We have seen threats to, or closures of, inpatient beds at community hospitals, minor injuries units, youth centres, libraries, care homes, day centres and children’s homes and services. Now, if further drastic cuts are imposed, we shall see, for example, reductions in county-sponsored bus services, which will have a grim impact on the elderly who lack private transport and are too frail to carry heavy shopping so have to use local bus services frequently.

Some £1.7 million must be saved from the budget of £5.376 million for 200 public council-run bus services which carry 4.5 million passengers annually.

“The allowance for school children is £300 per head per year less than for children elsewhere. Will it be cut again?  The council has said that the school crossings budget must be cut by £100,000 per year in the next two years.
 
“Highway budgets are being cut to our extensive network and some of our roads will no longer be gritted, resulting in more accidents which will add to the pressure on the already challenged Royal Devon and Exeter hospital. Eight million square metres of grass verge will no longer be cut. What impression will that give our tourists? 

The Coalition government wants councils to use their reserves: Devon’s reserves of £14 million would vanish in a few days.

“I am angry at the way in which the Coalition government spends our money.

They spent £70 million setting up the unwanted Police and Crime Commissioners and wasted £3 billion on the reorganisation of the NHS. Now they are proposing to spend £50 billion on the HS2 project. It is shocking that this money is being wasted when the when the government is cutting public services back strongly and causing hardship. 

“As the fifth largest economy in the world it is ridiculous that some people in the UK have to choose between heating and eating. We can offer a better life to our citizens through eliminating waste,  redistributing national income more fairly and securing a higher tax take from those companies, which, obeying the law, nevertheless deny this country billions of pounds in tax income each year.

Even Devon County Council Conservative leader, Councillor John Hart has publicly urged Devon MPs to back the council and vote against the cuts.

“I call on Mr Swire to choose to support the residents of East Devon, instead of his political party and, on February 10th to argue against and vote against the savage cuts.