THE leader of Hastings Borough Council has hit out at the MP for nearby Bexhill after he said the Government was making cuts Margaret Thatcher “could only have dreamt of”.
Conservative Greg Barker was speaking to students more than 4,000 miles away at a business school in South Carolina, USA, but his comments on the cuts have caused a political storm here in 1066 Country.
With Hastings facing up to council cuts of 50 per cent over the next two years, Councillor Jeremy Birch has criticised his Tory rival, saying Mr Barker had gaffed by gloating overseas.
He told the Observer: “What the Government is doing nationally isn’t a dream it’s a nightmare.
“Hastings Borough Council is facing a 50 per cent cut in Government funding over the next two years.
“And, yes, that is worse than any of the cuts we had to endure under the ‘Iron Lady’.
“The coalition Government is cutting public spending at a breakneck speed, but the consequences in terms of jobs lost and services closed or reduced are only now becoming clear with the new financial year started.
“The reductions in housing benefit have only just come through and the decision to increase all benefits in line with the lower estimate of inflation has only just been confirmed.
“All this will have a greater impact on Hastings than many other towns.
“Memories locally of Margaret Thatcher will be of the hugely unpopular and unfair poll tax, of the sell-off of state industries and of public services starved of funds.
“Greg Barker is accepting what is being done now is worse.”
However, Mr Barker refused to apologise, instead insisting his Labour rivals had completely missed the point.
The Tory, who is also the minister for the environment, claimed his comments were taken out of context and that he was merely trying to illustrate the perilous situation the country finds itself in.
He said: “It is rather pathetic that instead of facing up to the huge problems that they themselves created, the Labour Party appears to now be in total denial about the deficit and just wants to play old-style political games.
“I know these are difficult times, but the honest truth is that if we do not take steps now to live within our means, we’ll all end up paying higher taxes or making deeper spending cuts just to pay off Labour’s debts.”