The long term issues could be much more than a few bad decisions
The Trafford Centre’s status as one of the north-west’s biggest attractions is under its biggest threat. The imminent collapse of Intu, the company that owns it is bringing uncertainty.
Whilst it’s difficult to conceive of a situation in which the Trafford Centre is not rescued by new ownership – the retail market will hit hard by recession and the long-term impact that covid-19 has on shopping indoors in these large super-malls might be severe.
The jobs that the Trafford Centre provides are an important part of the local economy. The business rates levied on the Trafford Centre as a whole are a large component of Trafford’s income and it’s already certain that these will be reduced significantly.
A lot of people don’t like the Trafford Centre but this adds to the blows that are raining down on us as a community.
A bit of honesty is never a bad thing, but this is long overdue. Trafford is proposing to make crude cuts to services from next April. Some of these changes will affect many people in terms of the cleanliness of our towns, others will affect fewer residents but could destroy lives. Most of the changes are likely to place a burden on future generations in clearing up the mess.
Whose fault is this when we’ve known for four years it’s been coming to Trafford? Ok, last year’s failure to track and predict £7m of spending has meant the tipping point has arrived a year earlier than the Council expected, but for years we’ve been steadfastly on course for a crisis in service delivery. And we’re now at a place where services that most of us take for granted are being withdrawn. And look at what we’re losing:
Libraries (saving £0.7m)
SureStart & Youth Centres (saving £3.3m)
School Crossing Patrols (saving £0.1m)
(all of which the Tories had arrogantly crowed they were protecting!)
And we’re selling off the street cleaning, waste collections, parks maintenance to a corporate asset stripper, who no doubt will fleece us in the long run.
At least the Tory narrative is no longer pretending it’s a good thing. But they’re still protesting that these cuts have been forced upon us, that there was nothing we could have done to avoid them. Nevertheless, I think we’re all deceiving ourselves if we believe this is all down to Government Cuts. We can’t put all the blame on Government when Trafford has made having such a low council tax its Holy Grail.
If we’d aimed for the middle range rather than having the lowest council tax in Greater Manchester, most of the precious services in our communities could have been retained. If we had levels matching Stockport or Oldham’s we might just have built some council houses too.
The point of this is not to necessarily say we should have a higher council tax, but as citizens we can’t just keep pretending there are not services sacrificed on the alter of our low council tax bill. And we can’t pretend any Government of any persuasion will bail us out when we’re so out of kilter. We have made a choice. It’s not for me to say whether it was the right choice but we have to be honest about its consequences.
How much would be raised if Trafford matched its Band D Council Tax to other GM Authorities?