|Labour's Shadow Chancellor - John Mcdonnell MP|
"Last week at Crawley Borough Council, Labour passed their budget strategy for 2016 onwards. This sets out the financial plan for the Council and is a key indication of the ruling Administration’s priorities. Incredibly, the Council’s ruling Labour cabinet refused yet again to have a budget strategy that committed to trying to balance the Council’s books each financial year.Their strategy hopes to try and balance the books over a three-year period but there are several things wrong with this. Firstly, the Council’s budget gap is not (currently) very large so there is no reason other than an ideological political reason, not to address this now. Secondly, a failure to address the budget gap stores up future problems, making the job harder in future years. Thirdly, the goalposts get moved so that we are forever starting in ‘year one’ rather than progressing through each of the three years. This is exactly what happened last year when we were told that 2015 was the first year of three for balancing the Council budget. Now we’re told 2016.
Due to the good fortune of better than predicted business rates the Council eventually managed to balance the books by accident this year, rather than by design. Sooner or later, the budget gap will become huge as such good luck will run out. This will mean stark choices in future years of either slashing services, large increases in Council Tax, or a combination of both.
This problem will have resulted from using left-wing political ideology to determine key decisions at the Council. For me, pragmatism is much more important than political ideology and you cannot get any more pragmatic than living within your means and by being responsible. Sadly, Labour’s lurch to the left following Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory, means that left-wing political ideology is likely to be determining more decisions at the Council, to the detriment of what is best for Crawley.
We Conservatives offer an alternative of working to balance the Council’s books every year, ensuring the long-term protection of vital services and reducing the risk of future high Council Tax rises."