It was Budget night last night at Basildon Council. My colleague Cllr. Phil Turner presented a balanced programme that cuts the Council Tax by 0.25%, maintains frontline services and invests in community facilities, while making the required savings to keep in line with the fall in government support. So, we are spening £300,000 this year on Hannakins Farm Community Centre, Pitsea Leisure Centre and Victoria Park. Who could possibly object? Well, step forward Basildon Labour Party.
Labour's plan was to take £2m from reserves and borrow £2m in order to avoid building on open space to fund the Sporting Village. This was in support of the Kent View Road campaign to prevent houses being built in their vicinity. So, we have the basic principle of spending very large amounts of money in order to satisfy a relatively small resident's group. The Council's reserves and debt levels would be compromised so that Labour can jump on a bandwagon. Except that doesn't happen because they know that those sensible Tories will vote it down.
Of course, their proposal was technically flawed. They got the sum required to meet their stated objectives wrong; it's £8m not £4m. The failed to take the loss of income to the Council from the reserves they spent, which are currently invested. Worst of all, they programmed in a further £150,000 of savings without realising that this almost certainly equated to redundancies. Oh did their little faces fall when that was explained to them. What a shambles.
Their next wheeze was to cancel our weekend free car-parking in order to fund a free music festival that we have cut. They claimed that this £100,000 initiative had failed. Well, not according to the local Chambers of Commerce and the Essex FSB it hasn't, but Labour didn't bother to talk to them. Another shambles.
Sometimes I wish for a better opposition. Sometimes.