What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice

February 01, 2007

Budget joys

Oxford city’s Lib Dems have now published our budget (such a labour of love, believe me). The headlines are:
  • £4m savings identified: no cuts to front-line services
  • Below-inflation Council Tax rises for next THREE years
  • £575,000 new spending proposals in next 12 months to improve public services
For those who find council budgets just toooo exciting, full details are here.

The Lib Dems are a minority administration, so the next fortnight is going to involve a fair amount of negotiation. Which is fine - I mean it’s not like I’ve spent the last three months working on this already, or anything like that…

Executive member for Better Finances? Knackered Finances, more like.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Agree on the "Executive Member for Knackered Finances" bit.

It's an amusing ploy to say that you have reversed cuts, when the "cuts" were never proposed by anyone other than the officers working under your direction.

The budget has a hole of over £2 million in the second year: "unallocated savings". The council's reserves have been raided to the tune of well over £1 million. Using this one-off money to marginally reduce the council tax (around £2 per family per year!) is not sustainable.

There are cuts in services: replacement playground equipment, which is necessary due to safety legislation, is not funded at all.

Glad that you accept Labour was right to increase spending on playschemes, having voted against it last year. Blessed the sinner that repents!

There is a massive funding gap in the Council's capital programme (which was due to be reviewed, but which, perhaps because you were catching up on that much-needed kip, has not been reviewed yet), so the Council's community centres are unlikely to get the repairs they need any time soon. Again, it seems odd to be promising reduced council tax rises when you haven't worked out how to fund this.

We hope you will clarify how the hundreds of thousands of pounds of "lean thinking" savings will be achieved without any reduction in services.

Last time the Lib Dems ran the Council, it took you two years to leave the Council's finances as this sort of wasteland (with millions of unallocated savings, and buildings being sold to pay staff redundancy costs). This time, it's less than twelve months! Respect!

If you need any help with the budget, maybe give Alex Hollingsworth a call - it's the money he put aside which you're now trying to spend three times over, and I'm sure he'll be willing to set you right.

Bryan McGrath said...

A campaign promise to keep to tory spending plans for two years after the 1997 election
forced the initial restrained public spending prior to the year 2000 (sharp tightening I think
is something of an exaggeration). The expansion of 2000 until 2005, justified by bring health
care spending up to 'European' levels was justified, however, completely screwed up by
being rushed: examples include the rush for IT solutions and an over generous GP contract.
After Prudence was ditched Mr Brown made great play that Britain did not go into recession
in 2002/3, which was prevented only because he was throwing money around like a
drunken sailor.

Effectively he was making a 'dash for growth' that never really happened as the industrial
base continued to decline with the economic slack being taken up by a low wage service
sector.

Mr Brown, who will probably be remembered as the shortest servicing Prime Minister, my guess
is July 2007 to June 2009, i.e. less than two years.