31/01/2011 Leave a comment
Tomorrow we have a cabinet meeting to approve the 2011/2012 budget for it is debated by the Full Council later in the month, from our point of view it’s the culmination of months of hard work working out where and how to make £42.5M of savings over the coming year and deliver a balanced budget.
From the start of the process we were working on delivering a Zero pounds and Zero pence council tax rise, not by using a promised government grant incentive to pay for it, but by truely budgeting planning for no rise; the presumption was that if the incentive materialised, as it now has, we would use that to work with the District and Boroughs councils to protect front line services.
I have written much on my blog about the cuts and what we are trying to achieve, and being a part of this arena it’s quite easy to think that nothing else matters. But occasionally I think you need to take a step back and look at what effects the majority of people in Suffolk; I think the majority of people do not perceive they use Council services, yes they use the roads and want their bins emptied but for many and I have a number of friends included, they have little interest in the council, for them the main interaction with the council is when they get the Council tax bill and frankly from that they judge your performance.
Now I know I have colleagues who think this is a very cynical view but I think it’s a very useful one, if our aim is fundamental to protect the most vulnerable its important to realise that the Council tax rise has a real effect on the lives of residents; not so much if you are really on a very low-income because you probably get Council tax relief or if you are doing wonderfully well in life; but if you are on a fixed or lower-income Council Tax rises can have a profound impact on your income and can hit you the hardest as the percentage of your income that goes on the council tax is significantly higher than for those other groups.
So I fundamentally still believe it is a very significant moment and responsibility we have; indeed since I became a Councillor in 2006 the biggest single moment each year was the announcement of the Council Tax rise and the press were posed to pass judgement, so when the cabinet papers for this week’s cabinet meeting were published last Monday, the rise of zero pounds and zero pence passed almost without comment; all the talk was of cuts, savings, back office efficiency and job losses; entirely understandable but interesting is how agendas move on.
Personally I believe that being efficient and keeping Council Tax rises down is the single biggest way we can help the people of Suffolk particularly those on fixed or low incomes during these straighten times and in this respect I thing the Conservative Administration since 2005 has something to be proud of.
Liberal Labour Control: 98/99 – 10.0%, 99/00 – 8.4%, 00/01 – 7.3%, 01/02 – 6.9%, 02/03 – 11.9%, 03/04 – 18.5%, yes this is not a type-o it was 18.5%, so in two years they put up the Suffolk County element of the Council tax by over 30% , then in 04/05 – 3.8.
In 05/06 the Labour Liberal pack tried set the council tax rise at 2.5% as a cynical election ploy and used captial reserves and revenue contincency to pay for it. Having won the election the Conservative stuck with the low rise but wqorked hard to achieve immediate cost sacvings to protect the reserves.
Conservative Control: 06/07 – 4.5%, 07/08 – 4.5%, 08/09 – 3.7%, 09/10 – 2.45%. 10/11 – 2.4%, 11/12 – 0.0%
The figures speak for themselves loud and clear.
As Labour and the Liberals try, in the coming local elections, to hope people have short memories of their inability to run councils properly; I for one intend to remind people of the disastrous effects of letting them have a ‘play’ at running things, in these difficult times it is vital that Conservatives remind people of the need for sound judgement that protects the most vulnerable and strong leadership that demands the council continues to change to meet the challenges head on.
On the other hand you can always have labour and the liberals with their ‘pay and play’ attitude that is you and I pay, they play, given their track record is that ‘pay, pay ,pay and play’!