Dorset Lib Dems are united in our condemnation of a government proposal which would force parish and town councils to hold a referendum if they want to put up their precepts by more than two per cent. We feel that this proposal is both completely unfair and also profoundly undemocratic.
It is unfair because, increasingly, parish and town councils are being forced to provide services which formerly were provided by either district councils or the county council: a situation caused by the way in which the Conservative government is consistently starving district and county councils of central funding. Either the parish and town councils have to assume responsibility for providing these services, or they are lost forever. To provide them , they sometimes have to put up their precepts: it is as simple and stark as that. Examples in Dorset are Bridport Town Council's assumption of responsibility for their youth centre; for grass-cutting; minor road repairs and public toilets. In Blandford Forum, the town council has taken over numerous amenity areas, including trees; public conveniences ; the outdoor market; the funding of the leisure centre and responsibility for the Tourist Information building. Similar situations exist in parish and town councils right across Dorset.
The government 's proposal is also profoundly undemocratic, because it interferes in the relationship between the town and parish councils, and the voters to whom they are ultimately accountable at the ballot box. Liberal Democrats strongly believe that the level of precept should be decided locally, and not by central government based in Westminster.
We will be campaigning against this pernicious measure, and we will begin by asking Dorset's Conservative councillors and MPs to have the courage to stand up for local services and local democracy, against this gross interference from their own government.
Hugo Mieville - Liberal Democrat PPC, North Dorset
Andy Canning - Liberal Democrat PPC, West Dorset
Annette Brooke - Chair, Mid-Dorset and North Poole Liberal Democrats
Janet Dover - Leader, Dorset County Council Liberal Democrat Group