I have attended many council budget meetings over the years — too many I am sure some of you think.
However, I have never seen a budget so appalling or the spin more misleading.
I want to take you back to the important people in this — the residents you are supposed to be supporting. How are they affected?
So many residents want to do the right things. They want to be green. But in this anti-green budget, we have heard how you are making it more difficult for them.
Also residents have families but in this anti-family budget, we have heard the effect of our children’s centres closing.
Young people are residents too but in this anti-young-people budget, you are closing more youth clubs
Some of our residents are in serious financial difficulties, but in this anti-vulnerable budget we have heard about the council tax [reduction subsidy being cut].
Residents even want to use their own town centres — but in this anti-town-centre budget we have heard how the Advantage [Card] parking discounts are disappearing.
And many will be counter productive
For instance – Higher parking charges leads to less residents in town – leads to more shop closures – leads to drop in business rates
So is there an alternative to an anti-green, anti-family, anti-young people, anti-vulnerable and anti our town centres budget.
Here are a few ideas to kick off — none of them new, I have mentioned them at most Corporate Scrutiny meetings but have been ignored.
CIL for Maidenhead has already been mentioned.
We also need to be looking at bringing some services back into the council. The efficiency savings from the 1990s and 2000s have been achieved. Now we are just giving residents’ money to shareholders. Let’s look at bringing of some these back in house.
Investing in volunteering — the budget actually cuts money to promote volunteering just at the time we need to be investing in volunteers.
And that takes us to ‘invest to save’ generally. We seem to be doing a sell off at the moment in council assets just at a time we should be looking at the revenue possibilities of these assets. The property company was a good plan but does not seem to be performing at all.
And rather than negotiate an income from the redeveloped Nicholson [Shopping Centre], we have sold off the freehold and lost that opportunity.
So many opportunities, sadly being missed.
But now I would like to make a comprehensive offer to the Conservatives. We are in an appalling financial position. We all need to work together in a collegiate way. I have made this offer before and it has been rejected.
Next year’s budget will be just as tough. Let’s start building it now together — collegiately, sharing the information, discussing together.
Each year, I try to name the budget, otherwise they all start blurring into one.
The year before last was the Gambler’s Budget – and last year was the budget of the Captain of the Titanic just before they hit the iceberg.
I pointed out many of the problems with both these budgets at the time — the income targets that would not be met, the ridiculous savings targets — proved right on every occasion.
I was speaking to a couple of young people the other day about politics — one said that the Conservatives were evil and the other that the Conservatives were stupid.
Not my words – the words of young residents.
But maybe I should just let them name this budget — the Evil and Stupid budget.