Sunday, 3 March 2013

2013/14 Budget: What The Opposition Proposed

It is interesting to read the analysis and comment from Thursday's budget Full Council but I thought residents may want to have a look at what the three opposition party leaders were actually proposing, or in some cases not proposing at all in more detail.

The first thing that is very noticeable was as I mentioned in a previous post that despite all the protestations, none of the political parties supported retaining public subsidy of the Airshow. With the opposition only putting forward different options totalling £195,000, this effectively means that they supported over £10 Million of the savings proposals put forward by the Conservatives.

Published in the Echo on the day of the budget debate, there was a full page feature on their proposals. Firstly, they claimed that by taxing residents to the hilt they would see free black bin sacks provided to residents saved. Who are they trying to kid.

A careful examination of this proposal is required. Currently, one roll of black bin sacks is provided to every household every six months. When you look at the proposal closely you will notice that the saving was for 2013/14 financial year only. What were they proposing do from 2014/15 onwards, scrap them?

Also you need to look at the numbers. The suggestion was only to provide 40,000 rolls. With the 2011 Census showing that Southend has an estimated 74,700 households this equates to roughly half a roll of black bin sacks per home. Hardly saving the current provision is it. This then poses the question as to whom they proposed to issue the black sacks to. Were they going to means test for them? Were they only to be available to residents in certain wards or would it a free for all until they all went.

This then begs the question, would you be happy to pay an additional 4p a week in the hope that you may be one of the lucky ones to receive a roll of black sacks? I certainly wouldn't, it would be cheaper to by them myself from a supermarket considering that I, like over 50% of Southend's residents, use less than one black sack a week as 99.9% of all household waste can be deposited free of charge by using our excellent household recycling service.

It was interesting during Cllr Terry's budget speech in that residents would face a choice between buying a tin of beans or buying black sacks. This is complete stupidity as the baked beans could be brought, eaten, with the tin deposited free of charge using the pink sack collection.

Whilst I accept that in some quarters this saving may not be popular but as I highlighted in a post back in January there is no joined up thinking as we need to get people recycling more to cut down on the £3 Million a year we are paying in landfill costs. If our current landfill waste continues, even at the same rate, our landfill costs will continue to increase due to the rising tax escalator as landfill availability becomes increasingly limited over time. For me, the main key priority was ensuring that we retained our weekly black sack collection service.

The next proposal I want to touch on is the School Uniform grant. As my colleague Cllr Courtenay explains, it is not unreasonable to expect schools to pick up this entire cost as they have received an increase of 37% in the pupil premium to £900 per pupil, per year.

The proposal to close the Pier on Monday's and Tuesday's during the off-peak was a necessary one. On some occasions, there are more staff than visitors on these days during the winter months. You have to ask yourself why Adventure Island is closed on these days during the winter and then realise why we took this measure.

By removing the Domestic Violence Co-ordinator role, it also needs to be understood that we are doing away with the necessary support for domestic violence sufferers. This is co-ordinator role in which the person in the role undertook no casework. The domestic violence provision is provided by the Domestic Abuse Strategy Group. There was a need for the co-ordination of this group in its infancy. Now established. without the co-ordinator role this work will continue.

Finally, we have the combined proposal to keep £24,00 for toilet maintenance and supplies and services in Public Transport. Officers have repeatedly assured members that these savings are completely deliverable without seeing no impact to the services.

Once you look closer into what the opposition wanted to tax residents to the hilt for it just smacks, as the leader of the council described,as pure economic madness.

In his speech, Lib Dem leader Cllr Longley commented that it was fine to propose the highest possible council tax increase as it wasn't an election year.

Like many of my Conservative colleagues, I support the minimum council tax rise to protect vital services and not recklessly spending our reserves every year not just in election years.

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