SPENDING cuts have dominated local government over the past six months and provide the backdrop to tomorrow’s town hall elections.
Millions of people across the country will go to the polls in the first major test of national opinion since last year’s General Election, which resulted in a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
Prime Minister David Cameron and his Cabinet quickly set about trying to reduce the nation’s debts and councils across the country suffered swingeing cuts to their government grants.
While the General Election swept Labour from power, the party performed strongly in Leeds in the municipal poll and made four gains to hold 48 of the city council’s 99 seats. With the help of the two Greens in getting its budget through, Labour has controlled the council over the past 12 months and been responsible for finding savings of £90m during 2011-12.
While achieving those savings has meant job losses and service cuts, Labour has hopes of making further gains tomorrow.
Among the wards in which it can be expected to mount a strong challenge are Burmantofts, where the Liberal Democrats are defending the seat; Temple Newsam, which is currently held by the Conservatives, and Farnley and Wortley, where the Greens are battling to retain the seat.
Labour will also harbour hopes of repeating last year’s success in Roundhay, which it snatched from the Conservatives.
Liberal Democrats will have their fingers crossed in Moortown, where the Lord Mayor-elect, Brenda Lancaster, is defending her seat. Other candidates are Rebecca Charlwood (Lab), Allan House (Alliance for Green Socialism - Save NHS) and Mark Rowlinson (Conservative).
Coun Keith Wakefield, council leader, said: “We are getting a good response on the doorstep. We are encouraging people to use the election to send a message to the Government that it is cutting too deeply and too quickly.”
But Coun Andrew Carter, Conservative group leader, accused Labour of “politically-motivated cuts”.
He said: “Many of Labour’s frontline cutbacks are not necessary and we have shown where savings can be made without cutting services.”
Coun Stewart Golton, Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “One of the most important things is to articulate a vision for Leeds and that is what we are doing.”