Thursday, December 06, 2007

Labour government hammers Basildon

We got details of the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement this evening, the money that the government gives Basildon Council every year to help fund local services such as our sports centres and rubbish collection. It wasn't very good. The three-year settlement gives Basildon an increase above the CPI measure of inflation of 2% in 2008/9, 1.32% in 2009/10 and 1.55% in 2010/11, which sounds fine until you realise that the spending increases caused by government policy are well above that, most notably Labour's failure to fully fund concessionary fares for the over 65s. Basildon got less than many other Essex councils; for example Castle Point gets a rise next year of 3.1%.

This settlement gives Basildon a shortfall of £751,000 over the three-year period against our very conservative projections and the Labour government has coupled this with an announcement that Councils will be capped from making council tax increases above a certain level...which they won't tell us. So, we may end up having to make service cuts as a result, which could mean putting people out of work in the middle of a recession. The Labour members on the Cabinet resorted to bluster and then downright dishonesty. We were told that this shortfall in revenue funding was is some way made up for by the capital funding that we had received for regeneration projects, but of course they are not in any way related. We were told that it would be worse under the savage cuts of a Cameron Conservative government, but the Shadow Chancellor has already made it very clear that a rapid and imprudent reduction in government spending would not occur. We were told that the money could be made up from Council reserves, which made me wonder if they had been reading the same financial reports as me. The Labour deputy leader in particular seemed to find the situation amusing.

What is going on is that Brown's economic failures are coming home to the British people. Because government finances are in a mess then Britain is badly placed for an economic slowdown and a debt-ridden and high-taxing government is running out of both ideas and cash. That is why Basildon is feeling the pain and why the local Labour party had no option but to talk nonsense in an effort to defend the indefensible.


Onlinefocus Team said...

Hi Steve, seems like you have a difficult time ahead of you.

By the way, how do you come to have Labour cabinet members?

Steve Horgan said...

Chris, I think that all of us in local government have challenges ahead.

In Basildon we have a mixed-party cabinet with 8 Conservatives and 2 Labour.

Anonymous said...

Were the Labour members appointed to the cabinet by the Conservative leader or by some other method?

Angelina said...

Hi Steve, Other than financial concerns what are your views on the policy of providing free transport for the over 60s. I think that in addition the to obvious benfits to those concerned it also easies congestion as I know of many car drivers who take advantage of the scheme. I also want to see Essex pensioners get the same benefits that have been enjoyed elsewhere for some time for example London.

Steve Horgan said...

The Labour members of the Cabinet were appointed by the Leader, though he accepted the nominations of the Leader of the Labour group. We have a tradition in Basildon of making the senior executive committee cross-party, even when one party has a comfortable majority as we find it makes for a better democratic process. This is despite the fairly robust nature of Basildon's politics.

The policy of providing free transport for the over 60s is a good one, especially because many older people find themselves unable to drive. However, like any public policy it has to be constructed properly. In this case we may end up having to cut other services to fund it, which I cannot believe anyone would want.

Anonymous said...

"We have a tradition in Basildon of making the senior executive committee cross-party, even when one party has a comfortable majority as we find it makes for a better democratic process."

I can see merit in this Steve; thanks for responding.