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Archive - Friday, 19 April 2002
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Housing becomes political hot potato
The future of the district's housing stock looks set to be the big political hot potato for South Lakeland District Council this coming year, writes Jennie Dennett.
For Labour, the battle lines have been drawn clearly along old Labour principles of public service run by public servants.
Labour group leader Phil Lister said the party wanted to resist the transfer of council housing to independent arms length management - one of three options SLDC could choose in December.
"We want to see the council create an investment programme so there is a public housing sector in South Lakeland," argued Coun Lister.
"Housing is a vulnerability issue because affordable housing is hard to get hold of in South Lakeland."
Tackling social exclusion is also top of the Labour priority list.
In common with the Labour group, the Conservatives identify housing as one of the big political battlegrounds facing SLDC in 2002.
But it is also an issue that puts some clear blue water between the two parties.
Coun Colin Hodgson, the party group leader, stressed that Conservatives would be supporting an arms length management group to take over housing stock.
On top of that, the party's main thrust is to continue getting SLDC's finances in order.
Work began with the fundamental review of services, a cost-cutting exercise to plug a major shortfall in council budgets.
Coun Hodgson said the party now wanted to see a way ahead and put a programme of capital spending in place.
Coun Hodgson saw councillors' other priorities as expanding kerbside recycling across the district to meet government recycling targets and driving forward the decriminalised parking scheme with the recruitment of more parking attendants.
However, he added that policy issues were not central to the Conservative local election pledge.
"All we are interested in is giving as good a service in the community as we can.
"I'm a big believer in a local person for a local patch"
The Conservatives have little to lose and everything to gain with just one of their seats up for grabs in these elections at Sedbergh, a seat that is fairly comfortably occupied by Paul Winn.
Coun Hodgson expected an interesting, tight fought battle for the 14 contested Kendal seats including some that were clinched last time round with a handful of votes separating the main candidates.
The Liberal Democrats cite their main objectives as expanding kerbside recycling, lobbying government for a resolution on second homes and keeping council finances on track.
In common with the Conservative Party, the Lib Dems are backing arms length management for the council housing stock, because they believe it is what tenants want following a survey by consultants.
The Liberal Democrats hope to preserve their standing as the biggest party in SLDC after this election.
Presently they hold 20 seats with nine of those up for re-election in this round.