Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Budget - the view across the Chamber

I must express my surprise that once again this year we have had no amendments, variations or alternatives to our draft budget from any of the opposition groups either formally for debate tomorrow night or in the six and a half weeks since our draft budget proposals were published. In Southend we publish our draft budget proposals much earlier than in some other councils. This is specifically to give the opposition members as well as residents and businesses the opportunity to consider them and to make feedback. In many authorities opposition groups will devise a draft budget of their own or propose a list of their own priorities by way of amendments - but not in Southend. Even during formal scrutiny by the council's 3 scrutiny meetings the feedback from opposition councillors was close to non existent! The only limitation which applies on their proposals is the same as the challenge we face namely that the budget savings have to be delivered and any item of increased expenditure needs to be balanced by a similar saving. Of course having made no alternative proposals we might hope that in the budget debate the other groups would congratulate us on our budget and wholeheartedly support it but I will not be holding my breath for that to happen. The question which they must answer is if they attack any specific element of our proposals why have they made no effort to change our mind or suggest another option. After all we are hardly sitting on a massive majority and with a few unexpected absences there is always the possibility of a joint opposition majority. Having said that even when we were a minority administration they could not agree between themselves to vote through their budget or even any amendments.

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