Monday, February 16, 2009

If budgets were a lager...

If the Conservative budget were a lager, it certainly wouldn’t be Carlsberg. This is far from the best budget in the world. In fact it’s far from the best budget that our residents deserve.

While the Conservative budget deals with internal processes, spending £1m of tax payer’s money on new offices – before a single brick is laid, and two items which they have stolen from the Labour group as their own.

Our Liberal Democrat budget takes the opportunity to benefit from the last two years of knowing what our government settlement is and from the healthiest financial situation the Council has been in for quite sometime, not through the work of the administration may I add but through the work and commitment of the best financial officers that local government can afford.

We had presented our budget to Cabinet to give an opportunity to do consider it, but not only did they fail to take up the offer of considering our budget, but found it almost impossible to grasp the ideas of such a forward thinking budge.

Ours is a budget which addresses the demands of the people of Bath and North East Somerset.

The Liberal Democrat proposals which would look to tackle the causes of anti social behaviour by creating a £200k pot of money for voluntary and community groups to apply for.

A Liberal Democrat run Council would look to increase the budget for home to school transport by £3.5m over the next 5 years to ensure that every child who lives over 1 mile from the school they have been allocated can get to school for free.

Our long term vision is that every child under the age of 18 can travel free across Bath and North East Somerset. After all they are the full paying bus passengers of the future. The Conservatives once again demonstrate that they have not a clue about how to create modal shift and reduce reliance on the private motor vehicle.

Bath and North East Somerset Council used to be a for-runner for recycling initiatives led by a Liberal Democrat Zero Waste Policy.

With waste now under Conservative control, our waste diverted from landfill performance has flat lined and our innovation in waste has been surpassed by many Councils up and down the country.

To this extent the Liberal Democrat budget would invest to bring same day collection and food waste collection in at the same time and a year sooner than the Conservative’s proposals to ensure that unlike the Tories, Bath and North East Somerset is back on top of environmental issues.

While our Council officers in street cleansing do a fantastic job with the resources that they have it is quite clear that they are doing this with half the budget per head than out Audit Commission family of Councils.

This under funding and overstretching of resources has to stop, to bring Bath and North East Somerset Council in line with similar authorities, this Liberal Democrat budget proposes to double over the next 3 year the amount we spend on street cleansing, further more we would be prioritising our funding to clean up the streets where people live, you know what this Council calls the side roads, the residential areas and open public spaces.

The Youth Service, clearly a mistake has happened and this service has been trimmed back far too much, a Liberal Democrat budget would reinstate £500k back into the youth service budget to be spent on frontline youth workers, to increase the numbers of youth people who can benefit from our youth service.

We have also identified £500k to help tackle fuel poverty in our area, financial assistance insulating or making their home more energy efficient and while the Conservatives are quite happy fobbing off this responsibility to government, but at the end of the day we also have to be realistic and where it is not happening sometimes we have to be supportive of our the most vulnerable in our communities.

The Liberal Democrat budget looks to fund this by savings proposals which stretch over the next 3 years, proposals which would see significant shifts of resources between council services, we understand the risks of non delivery of our saving targets, particularly in year one where we are looking at tempering the growth in some services, and halving the Conservative propaganda department, which we would reshape into a meaningful, community engagement department this alone would save £250k.

We oppose the building up a pension pot of £3m, we feel that services should budget to meet the pension pressure from creating efficiencies from within and that we should not be asking the hard up Council tax payer to cough up.

We oppose spending £1m of tax payers money on looking at new office accommodation for this Council - £1m spent before a single brick is laid.

We oppose the Conservative’s budget which does nothing for our residents.

We have proposed to temper increases of 4 budget lines and the halving of one, we have proposed significant increases to 6 budget lines and one completely new one for the home energy fund of £500k available until it’s been spent by our residents.

These proposals look to invest £5.5m into:
• street cleaning
• waste
• young people
• combating anti social behaviour
• and home to school transport

£5.5m into 5 keys areas for our residents.

Our proposals will reduce the level of Council Tax increase over the next 3 years, 3.25% in year one, 3% in year two and 2.75% in the final year, while striving to deliver significantly improved services which matter the most to our residents.