Friends of the Quantocks breathed a sigh of relief when plans for a massive reduction in funding for the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty service were abandoned. But Labour says the threat of cuts is still there – revealed in the Tories’ own words.
News that Somerset County Council was to slash its funding for AONB on the Quantock Hills caused an outcry. The proposed 90 per cent cut would have put at risk the jobs of the rangers who manage the environment. The council’s Tory leaders backed down. Or did they?
Huge Budget Cut
Let’s examine what Tory councillor David Hall said on BBC Somerset. He described talk of a huge budget cut as a myth and said:
“We are not taking forward any proposals to make major cuts to the AONBs. I absolutely recognise how important they are to Somerset, the work that they do”
Thanks David. That’s all right then. Anything else you’d like to say?
“But in the longer term it’s important that we work with them as we do with other organisations to reduce their reliance on Local Authority funding because it isn’t going to be there.”
So the local authority funding “isn’t going to be there” – does that mean you are cutting it, David? That’s exactly what he means. Clearly, the Tories who control Somerset County Council plan to abandon their commitment to preserving the environment of the Quantocks.
West Somerset Labour Party secretary Andy Lewis said:
“The Quantock Hills are a precious resource for all the people of Somerset. The Tory led county council plans to walk away from any ongoing commitment to preserving this environment. No doubt others will step forward. But it is a matter of shame that our county council wants to stop contributing.”