A CREDIT crunch inspired punch-up is looming between Swindon’s Tory and Labour politicians over council cash.

Coun Nick Martin, the man who holds the council’s purse strings, says the Government should be bailing out local councils.

But South Swindon’s Labour MP Anne Snelgrove is calling on Swindon Council to do its bit to help families feeling the financial pinch and use cash reserves to slash council tax.

Coun Martin, lead member for resources, has hit out at what he sees as a lack of support by the Government for struggling councils.

He said: “They can find money to bail out Scottish banks but councils that are already under-funded are not getting the help they need.”

He was speaking after local government minister, John Healey, announced a 4.2 per cent funding increase for English councils next year.

But Coun Martin said the difference the funding – which works out as 1.75 per cent for Swindon – would make was negligible, especially as the council is about to face an increased landfill tax.

He explained that the increase in funding from the Government would amount to approximately £859,000 but around a third of that would go on the £296,000 the council will have to pay in increased landfill tax.

He said: “The Government is giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

“We have invested £2.1m this year in trying to reach our target of recycling 50 per cent of waste and have already managed to get that level to 47 per cent.

“Councils are the ones providing everyday services that affect people’s lives – why can’t the Government give us some of the help that it is so ready to give to the banks?”

But Mrs Snelgrove said the council could do more to help residents in Swindon.

She said Labour councillors in a London borough proposed ploughing some of its council’s cash reserves to fund council tax cuts – while leaving enough for emergencies.

“I think this is a good idea. I don’t know how much Swindon Council has in reserves but I do know that the council needs to be thinking how it can do this,” she said.

“Government is not sitting back and doing nothing, it has cut VAT to put cash into more people’s pockets and there are a number of measures that the Government is carrying out to help hard-working families.

“We all have to make sure that people are helped so I think that Swindon Council should be looking at its capital reserves and seeing if it can do something even if it is a one-off.

“Clever accountants can do clever things.

“We are living in extraordinary times and we all need to be thinking about what action we could be taking and it is not just central Government that should be acting.

“The council needs to think about how it can stimulate the local economy.”