Cuts to council services over the price of a chocolate bar

Tuesday’s Budget meeting was always going to be long and heated. As I have said previously, it was the battle of the 0% budgets and the Cabinet preferred option of the 1.97% increase, or to put it into monetary terms the increase to the Council Tax bill would be 42 pence per week on a Band D property, or 10p on a Band A.

Let’s be clear, no-one likes to raise Council Tax unnecessary. That is a fact. But for the last two years Cornish residents have had a 0% increase in the Cornwall Council part of the Council Tax bill. However, the £170 million and counting cuts to the grant settlements from Government can only be absorbed so far. In the end you run out of areas to streamline, or the favourite in local government circles, restructuring. That means Council Tax has to be raised if people want services to remain.

What actually happened shocked even me for the blatant disregard for setting a Budget that will protect deliverable services. Instead we got headline catching bullet points. That if you look behind them will result in service provision being reduced, and in some cased stopped. No spin, that’s the harsh reality. That is the bases of both amendments.

In a turn of events that no-one expected, least of all the Lib Dems, a great majority of the Conservatives instead of voting against the Lib Dem amendment, voted for it. This was carried and that made it the substantive motion. The Cons, then withdrew their amendment (after lunch officially). This left only one option on the table.

You cannot help but think the Lib Dems were out-manoeuvred by the Cons in the vote. Especially as the Con amendment had the unworkable tag from the S151 officer. So it had little if any chance of getting approved. And as it is so close to an election, the two big parties could not be seen to lose the advantage to each other. Furthermore, and confirmed by two of the four group leaders, there was common ground to support the 1.97% Budget but one group leader would not. Guess who? Yes, the Cons group leader.

Before the final vote on the substantive motion (the amendment, now formally adopted.) was taken, the interim CEO, Paul Masters also spelt out the impact on staffing levels and therefore service provision this substantive motion would have. This will be at least (I would say more) 135 jobs lost, which will be made up of full, part, agency and temporary staff. With no staff, there will be no service to provide. There is also the redundancy costs which unsurprisingly have not been factored in, and now will have to be found from somewhere. Yes, you’ve guessed it, more cuts.

The S151 Officer made it perfectly clear to all those present that a pro-rata cut would be applied to all Directorates if the amendment was carried. These details and impact was also read out before the vote, just to make sure everyone knew what they were about to vote on. You’ll be surprised how often people do not understand, or get confused on what they are voting for. You only got to watch the webcast to see. (Well you could have, but that will be gone under the cuts!).

These are:

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As you can see, £0.8 million from Adult Social Care, £0.7 million for Children’s, £0.3 million from Shared Services which includes call centres and libraries and £0.4 million from Localism, Strategy and Communications. For the latter, this cut would completely stop certain functions.

The vote was finally taken and 52 Councillors voted for, with 49 against the substantive motion. There were also 3 abstentions. For the record, I voted against the substantive motion.

What the residents of Cornwall ended up with from the decision, is pretty looking headlines for the forthcoming elections. It looks very nice Lib Dem/Conservatives gave you a 0% increase, so vote for us. But get beyond the election, these very same people will be wondering how their pretty headlines will actually deliver services. The truth is they will not.

It is well recorded that I have never been a fan of the JV, but this budget has almost certainly killed off that process and if the reduced figures are actually true on the savings, including the ‘created’ jobs, these have now all but gone. So much so, the Cabinet meeting set for today, which included the final decision on the JV, and the issuing of the Invite to Tender has now been postponed until a later date.

For less than a price of a (weekly) chocolate bar, these services and functions could have been saved. But I guess having a good election leaflet is better than doing what’s right for Cornwall.

Staff who work so hard delivering services must feel so undervalued. I spoke to many staff who all wondered if they had a job after today’s vote. Some were in tears. Others just could not believe what had happened. It may have been forgotten by some Councillors, but staff are also residents, who can vote and their families vote will no doubt be very tempted to put an X in a different box in May. Especially after Tuesday and setting a Budget on political grounds, rather than what is good for Cornwall.

However, the most unsettling part of the day, was when Councillors were gleefully smiling that the motion they supported was carried. It was sickening to watch and I was ashamed to be in the council chamber with them.

Furthermore, and more bizarrely, the very same people who were saying we must protect the council tax payers, and without any irony, were proposing a £2.30 odd increase per week in council house rents. You really could not make it up

And later today, the Corporate Leadership Team will be having an emergency meeting to discuss the massive impacts this Budget will have on services. This is on top of an email sent this morning by Cllr Toms, the Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care on the dire consequences that will have to be actioned with almost immediate effect just to balance the books.

15 comments

  • Graham Coad

    Outrageous… half of Cornwall Council have put electioneering above the welfare of Cornwall.

  • Christopher Smith

    Unbelievable. Lions led by donkeys. People who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Have they learnt nothing from past history where staff redundancies lead as night follows day to wildly expensive Contract Staff apointments by outsiders who are not stakeholders in the Council like permanent staff, but who are just there for their short term cut? Complete with the rest of us having to cope with their learning curve inefficiencies and mistakes? The Council is shackled with vast statutary obligations to deliver. If they can’t deliver using in-house appointments, then it has to be through short term crisis management Contract staff appointments. Those of us who have run businesses know this to our cost. Thanks for exposing this Andrew.

  • Wife of an IT contract worker

    Whilst I understand the outrage this has caused, I am not surprised by the need to ‘trim’ staff (even though we will be struggling to find work) There is an awful lot of wastage, of sitting around and not actually ‘doing’. I can only state what I have been told and admittedly my husband is a very hard worker and expects others to have the same ethos, but has rarely found any that are of a like mind or have the skills to do the job anyway.
    I don’t understand your comment about redundancy, surely if they are agency or contract workers, contracts just won’t be renewed?
    A closer look should be given to project managers, the ones my husband has been under (2) have both been appalling, wasted days (which in real terms is £££’s) and men sat around reading newspapers and chomping doughnuts…Yes this is true,
    So, a lot fewer people could be employed if, they worked harder and had the skills they should and the project managers did their job correctly.

  • A benefits assessor

    Now an ex-benefits assessor

    What the IT contract worker’s wife says is quite true. If the Managers had any balls or the slightest interest they would be able to achieve these economies by cutting the dead wood. Laziness, sickness and low morale is slowly killing the service I recently left.

    Chocolate bars are very nice but the more you eat the fatter you get.

  • Tim Dwelly

    Well said. This vote was not only shameful, it was exceptionally stupid, the worst kind of back-of-the-envelope budgeting. The comments made by some of the councillors who vote for the freeze show how little they understood what the real impact of their action will be. A Cornish Omnishambles. Question: is there a centre ground any more in Cornish politics now the Lib Dems have become the hard right?

  • worried worker

    A warning to the politicians – don’t you dare knock on my door all smiles and handshakes in the run up to the local elections.

  • Jude Robinson posted on her blog that she thinks a LIbDem ‘plot’ went wrong… they proposed their nil rise budget expecting the Tories to vote it down and go for the 1.97 rise. They could then attack the Tories for putting CT up… but enough voted for the LD proposal to see it carried…

  • mick martyn

    Spot on headline and post Andrew – – slimeball Rowe and Fatboy Folkes have played one political trick too many here and really shot their bolt making themselves less popular than Councilor Brewer at a childrens party – they have played with fire, got torched and now have more egg on their face than humpty dumpty and will have to continue lying low (which all of a sudden they seem to be doing) whilst all the required cuts are announced – if the cabinet have an ounce of nous they will make sure it all comes out before the election as when it does only the daft and deluded will want to vote for the Lib Dumb shower. i wonder what Folkes will say on the doorstep the week after it is announced that Launceston Library has to be cut/closed as part of the Lib Dem cuts. Says it all on Folkes blog that someone has thanked him for the job losses – he isnt even man enougfh to respond – – must have fallen into a pot hole which is poor timing as their magical budget is going to sort all of those out. pass me a chocolate bar……..

  • Despondent Worker

    Don’t forget the domino effect here either guys.

    For those that will lose their jobs it is bad enough, but even the “lucky” ones that escape the cull are affected. Cutting staff means less people to do the same amount of work, which in turn, means already over-stretched staff must pick up the slack. Stress levels rise and then sickness kicks in. Now even fewer staff in and stress levels rise again. And around and around the viscious circle goes…

    Why can’t / won’t these people see past the end of their noses?

  • worried worker 2

    I there anything to be done to revisit this decision, It is so wrong. I will not be voting for my councillor and if he comes knocking on my door, he will get short shift.

    worried worker 2

  • worried worker 2

    I there anything to be done to revisit this decision, It is so wrong. I will not be voting for my councillor and if he comes knocking on my door, he will get short shift.

    It is worrying when councillors do not listen to the people from finance.

    worried worker 2

  • As an Independent worker for the council I feel those at the top should stand up and take a 15% pay cut, as they aren’t worth the money. If they true,y cared about the people of Cornwall they would act.

  • mick martyn

    …i cannot believe the post on Alex Folkes blog he is now stating that this wonderful budget increases jobs and if services are cut it is not because of them!!!!! The lib Dumbs are beyond belief and i am seething for the staff – i visited my local library today and spoke to staff – they tell me (and said it is the same for the call centre) that they use agency staff in a flexible way as this is an essential requirement to keep libraries, one stop shops and the phone open all day every day AND the agency staff are no more expensive than they are – i dont have a google account so cant post on Folkes blog but he needs to be asked to justify is false statement as the staff also told me that according to the figures their service has to be cut by over £300,000 – i hope councillor ‘ego’ folkes reads this blog and answers or someone posts something similar on his blog.

    Sorry for the rant andrew this isnt anything to do with me but is outrageous.

  • Cornwall doesn't need politics - people first!

    If Alex Folkes is acting according to his constituents wishes, where are their comments of support on his ‘Lanson Boy’ blog? Their silence speaks volumes!!

    Seeing that Councillors are openly admitting that it was a bluff that went terribly wrong, can we not have a vote of no confidence against them and the decision made? In the budget meeting some Councillors openly admitted that they did not actually know what they had voted for!!

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