Two Days of Budget Scrutiny or State of the Union Addresses?

For the last two days I have been stuck in County Hall scrutinising the proposed budget for 2012/13 as set by Cabinet. I wish I could say it was a worthwhile experience, but it was not. Scrutinising is mean to, well, Scrutinise. It is not meant to be a State of the Union address on how good we are, and what we have achieved in the last year. (You can see for yourself with the archive web cast).

For the last two days this State of the Union has been presented by the various corporate heads, and portfolio holders. This has left little time (one hour per scrutiny committee) to question the budget detail. Spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations are all well and good, but people want to know what these figures on an accountants spreadsheet mean in reality, ie. what is going to shut or stop being provided.

Last year during the process there was no mention of cuts to concessionary fares, or the withdrawing of funding for 114 toilets. My worry is what lies behind the figures. The question is what else is on the cards? Open spaces? What other non-statutory but important functions will be cast adrift? This really has me worried. As they say, the ‘devil is in the detail’. We know the devil is there, we just can see him (or her).

No one should be under any misunderstanding that finance is tough in the whole country, and more importantly the world. Governments, Local Authorities, public and private sectors are facing huge budget pressures. This will result in reductions. The point is what reductions are acceptable (to a point), and what are no go areas.

From what I can see the proposed Cornwall Council budget is full of numbers, but lacks detailed answers to what will be cut/reduced/off-loaded?

I summed the budget up at yesterday when Andrew Long asked me what was for lunch.

Andrew Long: “What for lunch”?
Me: “Sandwiches”
Andrew Long: “What’s in the sandwiches”
Me: “You don’t need to know what’s in them as they are like the budget. You just need to know they are sandwiches”
Andrew Long: “nothing new there then”

The sandwich debate pretty well summed up the two days.

One comment

  • Gill Martin

    Well I hope they do something constructive with the extra income that they will gain due to the abolition of second home council tax discounts.

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