Thursday, 26 February 2015

Conservatives show the way on the budget challenge!

I have already commented on my disappointment at the budget proposals formulated by the current Rainbow Administration. It has been a regular feature of budget debates over recent years for current leader Ron Woodley and the other members of the then opposition groups to bemoan the efforts of the Conservatives in presenting budgets which made significant savings whilst also driving up performance in core services. Whilst always vague on their alternatives we were constantly being told by Ron that we were failing to deliver economies by cutting “red tape” and that our borrowing was too high.

In the circumstances I was looking forward to the current cabinet delivering on their previous promises and sound bites but what we have seen is a draft budget which rejects the Government’s council tax freeze subsidy, hits car parking charges notwithstanding the issues facing our retail centres, increases leisure and other fees and charges, cuts back on litter bins, removes textile recycling collection, imposes substantial council rent increases, increases borrowing levels, pushes some savings into following years and fails to deliver effective and sustainable economies.

This evening I will tune in via the internet to hear Cllr Woodley and his colleagues attempt to defend this dog’s dinner of a budget.

Over the years of recent Conservative Administrations whilst we have seen a lot of hot air from the opposition there has been a notable absence of any meaningful budget amendments. To be fair it is hard work for an opposition group to devise a sustainable alternative without the officer support enjoyed by the Administration.

In the circumstances the Conservative group deserves great credit for coming up with a number of significant amendments which have received financial approval from the Council’s Head of Finance and which seek to address some of the worst oversights on behalf of the Independent, Labour and Lib Dem Parties.

This evening we will see amendments proposing an acceptance of the Government’s council tax subsidy with freezing of council tax to residents, holding car parking charges for the current year to give clear and obvious support to our retailers and businesses, freezing entrance charges to the Pier (the jewel in the Town’s crown), saving textile recycling collections, and blocking the removal of much needed litter bins. I am sure that with a Conservative Administration this more sympathetic and proactive approach would have gone further to deliver a sound and balanced budget that protected core services whilst delivering the required savings in an imaginative and sustainable way – still perhaps we will see that next year!

In the meantime I will be watching with interest as every member of the chamber of whatever party has a choice on all these crucial areas. Let us hope they will be accountable for how they use their votes tonight.


  1. Hold on Nigel, not too long ago you were damning the joint administration for spending the reserves. Now you're patting John Lamb and co on the back for proposing to spend more than £400k on top of that amount?

    What changed?

  2. Always happy to help out you and your Labour colleagues on financial issues which I know you struggle with. When proposing amendments to a budget the opportunity for building proposals in to a wider framework is not available because there is no significant officer support. If the Conservatives had been in control these items would have been changed with other funding opportunities investigated and implemented, but that option is not available in opposition. From that starting point there are some measures, such as these, which are so important that other compromises have to be made and the suggested use of reseves or contingencies is financially prudent. When Labour is in opposition during next year's budget process perhaps they will have the face the same challenge but I am delighted that my former colleagues put together such a cogent and well focussed set of proposals.