Outrageous behaviour over fracking

Cuadrilla exploration drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Cuadrilla exploration drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

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Thank you to everyone who has been supporting our local businesses after the floods.

I’m now enjoying the Christmas recess by getting stuck in with loads of festive activities locally as well as holding meetings with local people and groups. As well as carol concerts and helping out with Santa’s sleigh, I have also met with Sport Lancashire where I’ve raised issues of flooding damage to local facilities.

Cat Smith

Cat Smith

In the past week we have seen the Government has successfully sneaked through changes to allow fracking below National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites. Under Labour pressure, they had previously conceded there should be tougher safeguards in place to protect drinking water sources and sensitive parts of our countryside. Now they have gone back on their word and without holding a debate.

The Government’s behaviour is outrageous, fracking should not go ahead until we can be sure it is safe and won’t pose a damaging risk to our environment. Neither MPs nor the public have received these assurances, yet Ministers are ignoring people’s legitimate concerns. I’m pleased to say the Labour Party is calling for a moratorium of fracking.

In 2016 it’s clear local councils are going to be under a lot of pressure financially. George Osborne’s decision to axe the central government grant to councils over the next four years amounts to a £6.1bn cut by 2019/20. This will surely hit the poorest parts of the country hardest where there are fewer businesses and tax payers to make up for lost Whitehall grants.

The Chancellor also announced the local authority public health budget will be cut by 3.9%. Local councils, charities and local government organisations have been critical, arguing the drastic cuts will have a major impact on prevention and early intervention services currently carried out by councils. That puts services aimed at combating obesity, helping people to stop smoking and tackling alcohol and drug abuse at risk.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all the Lancaster Guardian readers, and the staff who work hard all year round, a very happy Christmas.