Thursday, 24 July 2014

Crawley Observer Column 23rd July 2014

This week in my Crawley Observer column (below the photo) I have written about Labour's Budget Strategy at Crawley Borough Council and how my colleagues and I are trying to get them to act responsibly with the Council's finances. Below in italics is the amendment that I proposed at last night's Full Council meeting which was seconded by our Deputy Group Leader, Cllr Richard Burrett. Incredibly, in the debate at last night's Full Council meeting, a Labour Cabinet Member described our amendment to maintain the current balanced budget as "a ridiculous amendment".
3) Note that there is a gap of £1.1m between projected General Fund income and expenditure for the three year period to 2017/2018 and work towards balancing this over a three year period maintain the existing balanced budget in each of the next three years, including putting back into reserves when the budget is in surplus.
Labour and financial competence never go hand in hand  
"Whether it is a government, a company, or a household budget, most of us know that running finances on a sound footing and living within our means is vital in ensuring we have a level of security for the future.
Crawley Borough Council is no different and the good services it provides can only be sustained for the long-term if difficult decisions are faced up to. Indeed, many services have been protected for the long-term thanks to the Conservative control of the Council from 2006 to 2014 when we made £8 million worth of efficiency savings, most of which Labour opposed.

Now that Labour are once again responsible for the Council’s finances as they were prior to 2006, I fear that history will repeat itself and that we will see again the fudging of taking the necessary financial decisions that ensures the Council remains in good shape to provide future services. The omens are not good as the Budget Strategy being voted on at this week’s Full Council meeting shows.

The Council’s Budget Strategy is financial planning for the next three years. What is alarming is that it is proposed to deviate from the existing status quo of having a balanced budget and then crossing fingers that it will balance again in three years’ time. This is the same three-year plan to balance the budget that the last Labour Council had before 2006. What happens is they move the goalposts and forever defer the date that the budget will be balanced.

I believe the new Labour Council should start as they mean to go on. Therefore, in order to focus minds on this vitally important decision, I have proposed an amendment to the Budget Strategy for this week’s Full Council meeting, recommending that the Council’s Budget continues to be balanced from next year. I genuinely believe this is achievable without pain and if Labour accepts this, we can work together in maintaining the Council sound finances so that good services can continue to be provided for years to come."  

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