Councils will need to change

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WE should be under no illusions, we are in for a few more years of belt-tightening austerity that is going to hit all of us in differing ways.

First the good news: the freeze on fuel duty is just the tonic motorists and anyone engaged in the business of transport needs. Infrastructure spending will create jobs and we will see a return to the school building programme that came to a grinding halt after the last General Election. And those on lower incomes will see some relief with a rise in the income tax threshold.

Now for the bad news: three more years of spending cuts will mean councils and police will have to make even greater savings for longer.

How much more can they take? Some will say that if Sheffield Council can save £3.5m from changes in its children’s services, as reported yesterday, without affecting services, then they just need to look a bit harder.

But council leader Julie Dore is predicting the “end of the council as we know it”.

Of course party politics will be playing a big role in her rhetoric, but we have to be concerned about just how our councils are going to continue to deliver services that we pay for.

They will have to fundamentally change their approach to how they work for us and we will have to change our expectations. We have started to do so, evidenced by our reluctant acceptance of fortnightly bin collections.

But this will just be the start.

The challenge for the councils will be to convince the public that structural changes to the way they deliver our services will still protect the most in need and not materially affect our daily lives.

What caused this terrible tragedy?

NO words can console the parents of Emma Lifsey, the four-year-old girl who died after the car she was in was hit by a train on a level crossing.

Mark and Zoe Lifsey must be heartbroken. No parent expects or wants to out-live their child and we can only offer them our deepest condolences.

They must be left to grieve in private as they try to come to terms with their terrible loss. But the couple will want to know how this tragedy happened.

We hope the police and the Rail Accident Investigation Branch can provide an answer as they investigate the cause of this incident.

Both bodies can be trusted to do a thorough and complete job, which we hope will prevent a repeat incident.

But for now, all our thoughts are with the family in what must be their darkest hour.