Cabinet – Budget on a nod
For those living in Cornwall you would probably be aware from all the coverage that today was the day that the Cabinet’s emergency budget was announced. I would like to say that there were some changes to what was proposed, but sadly not a sausage. I could say what is listed HERE is what was nodded though by all the Cabinet.
I have posted before and areas that I would find hard to support. I asked the Leader, Alec Robertson when would the details as to why they are cutting 27 bus routes, Post-16 travel (further Education) and details of how a sports centre trust would be set up and function. I was met with a nothing answer along the lines of “don’t worry about the details all you need to know if that we have to cu and set the budget” Well sorry Mr Leader I do need to know these details if I have to stick my hand up on the 30th November and vote
Another outstanding comment from Jim Currie “this is only a financial exercise”. That comment seems a little insensitive considering these cuts will have a huge impact on those people of Cornwall. No one is saying that savings must be made. Cornwall Council has lost a huge amount of funding from central Government. It was pointed out these cuts equated to the same budget of two former District Councils. It is a very big punch to take and be still standing. Saying that, it was confirmed today that we won’t actually know in money terms how much money we will lose as the government won’t release those details until December.
My big problems are I don’t think the basics have been done. Take for example I have repeatedly requested a printer in the Members room to be changed to allow duplex printing (both sides). I have been told that there is no money to pay for a new one, but printing documents out on a single sheets costs more money in a few months than it would be to replace the printer. If many more printers are the same and only print out one side imagine how much money could be saved in paper alone. This is just one example. Sometimes you have to spend a little to save a lot. This point is Cornwall Council has a huge buying power and it could get these items a lot cheaper than normal. This was pointed out by Sir Philip Greens report on Government spending. If we sorted out the basics first, then maybe, just maybe these cuts might not have to be as bad.
Now these recommendations are going to the Scrutiny Committees. Great, they should be able to examine these proposals in-depth. Sadly I doubt it. The reasons the first scrutiny committee meets on the 1st November with the last meeting ends on the 5th. Each Scrutiny OSC is only scheduled to meet once, abet all day. The Cabinet will re-meet on the 17th November for its final recommendations before it’s submitted to full Council on the 30th for the decision. Just looking at the time-line it does not allow much time to asked questions and get detail answers on how, why and what planet are you on when you made the decision to cut, scale down or bodging certain services. Considering a public agenda and report has to be made available to the public and Councillors 5 working days before the meeting is held. Not a lot of time for this process to take place and you could argue that it’s only having the bare minimum of scrutiny. But am I being cynical on this process?
Speaking to many back-benchers after the meeting there are many who are concerned that these cuts should have more thought into them. The question is, will those Councillors be able to vote against something that will hurt a lot of people if they feel they have not had the full information and rational behind them.
I am remaining unconvinced that this is the best way to do this, and I will be asking some tough questions in the next few weeks. Anything less and I will fail those who have elected me.