Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A good reason not to compromise!

I thought that I would leave it a few days before giving my reflections on last Thursday's budget debate - all 4 + hours of it! I remain bemused about the stance of our opposition groups. In previous years, as we have delivered many millions of pounds of savings, my challenge to them has been to propose any changes they wanted so long as they identified a corresponding saving for every pound of additional spending they suggested. The response was to oppose and vote against our budget without making any alternatives. This year their moment had come. When we finished our proposals and decided we could deliver them whilst limiting the council tax increase to 1.75% it was always likely that we faced opposition proposals to increase by the maximum and in doing so they gave themselves a sum of about £175k to spend without having to identify corresponding savings. I was expecting a populist menu of enticing suggestions. Perhaps they would reinstate the air show, or reintroduce bus subsidies, or increase spending on road maintenance. But no they managed to limit themselves to primarily reinstating a number of reasonable budget cuts and with no attempt to deliver items on which they have campaigned. This package was signed by the leaders of all 3 opposition leaders and represented a compromise of their priorities so they told us. Rather than a compromise it was a wasted opportunity to be imaginative and to set out a reasonable argument for driving up council tax higher than was needed.

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