Mayor says he’s seeking re-election as “there is more to do”

Mayor Dave Hodgson by the River Greeat Ouse, Borough Hall in the background
Mayor Dave Hodgson (Liberal Democrats)

Dave Hodgson said there is more to do, which is why he’s seeking to be re-elected as Bedford’s mayor.

“There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening, whether it be in the town centre, whether it be getting out of the cost of living crisis, or beyond the pandemic,” the Lib Dem candidate said.

“But there’s a great need to protect the vulnerable people that we see, we’ve got a lot to do in terms of protecting the environment and attacking climate change.

“There are great opportunities for all, and we need to make sure those opportunities are fulfilled.

“And I think I’m the right person to have,” he said.

The mayor’s manifesto said that the council kept front-line services going despite the government funding cuts. The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked what services have been cut in the last four years.

Dave said most of the cuts the council made were from reducing costs.

“We have reduced staffing, and that puts pressure on services, and we have reduced our building costs,” he said.

He added that the council has also saved money by using more effective procurement processes when buying goods and services.

“We really have tried not to cut front-line services at all.

“There are things we do like to do that we’re not doing,” he admitted.

“In terms of forward thinking and innovative schemes with adults, [for example] when we do it we do it in a small way.

“But it’d be nice to roll out everything quicker, but sometimes you haven’t got the money to do some of that,” he said.

Is it not worth having a small increase in council tax to pay for these ideas projects so they can happen, the mayor was asked.

“You’ve always got to balance the increase in council tax with the difficulty [for residents to pay it],” he replied.

“If people are really struggling and it’s not just people that are on benefits that get the council tax reduction that will struggle, it’s those people on middle incomes [as well].

“There’s a balance I mean then you know if we increase it by an extra per cent it’s about a million pounds, but what do we spend it on?

“I could spend a million pounds time and time again,” he said.

When the council tax is set, the current administration always talks about having the “fourth lowest” council tax rise among unitary authorities since 2009.

However, in the council’s early days, it had one of the highest unitary authority council tax charges. It is only this year that the borough council is charging a tax that matches the average council tax.

“But we’re coming down,” Dave said.

“We’ve also been paying off debt, remember, we inherited £90 million in debt so we’ve reduced that to £60 million.

“That’s an extra million pounds we can spend on services, so at the same time as we’re actually bringing [council tax] down, we’re trying to get the debt down.

“So we have to balance it, but I think [the way we run our] finances stacks up against other authorities, bringing down debt gradually, bringing down council tax to the average.

“I realise that people have to pay this bill, but we get that balance about right,” he said.

A list of all the mayoral candidates can be found here.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter