Budget Matters Dominate
Every February Trafford Council sets the annual budget for the coming year. The Budget council meeting itself is one of the key events on the calendar in terms of set piece speeches. The Government’s cuts agenda has put an even bigger focus on Local Government. Clearly it suited the Conservatives in Government to make the cuts in such a fashion that leaves the wealthy rural areas unscathed, but particularly hits the poorest areas such as Manchester and Salford. The political imperative for Trafford’s Tories has been to portray itself as coping manfully and uncomplainingly with reductions in spending. Whilst Trafford hasn’t had to deal with the catastrophic cuts facing Manchester, we are facing significant loss of funding.
The national political context for the weeks budget debates has meant that in Trafford, we have Labour Councillors trying to identify the impact of the reductions, Tory Councillors trying to obscure until after the local election; and Liberal Democrats trying to change the subject to bee-keeping. Bless
At the same time, the Conservatives are pursuing a rebuilding and enlarging of the office accommodation at the Town Hall. How do you argue for a massive enlargement of the Town Hall at the same time as slashing the ‘back-office’?
The answer is with Great Difficulty. And we heard Councillor Alan Mitchell resort to Keynsian Economic Theory to make the case that this was exactly the right time to invest £30m of borrowed capital in new accommodation whether we needed it or not. He was of course forgetting that the Tory Government had pulled the much more sensible investment in Building Schools for the Future. The cuts across Greater Manchester are going to see lots of public buildings become surplus. We’re going to see the Greater Manchester Combined Authority bringing together increasingly shared services. Its inevitable that councils are going to change rapidly over the next four years. Common sense says that the Town Hall project is no longer a sensible commitment, but for the Tories to pull out now would mean a loss of face. So we will plough on regardless, just as Labour did over the Millenium Dome. I felt Labour was wrong to pursue that project, and the Tories are wrong to be building a new town hall. Hopefully we’ll find a use for all of it eventually, just as they have in Greenwich for the dome.
Attended first of week’s Executive Committees – This one at Altrincham Town Hall.
Attended Labour Group Meeting
Barton Clough Governors. I had to give apologies to ‘Big Society’ workshop at Urmston Library due to the clash with Governors.
The Budget Council debate. We argued the case that too much of the budget reduction was essentially an act of faith that contracts could be negotiated down further whilst maintaining the service. The reality is that they’ll hit the most vulnerable in the hope that the majority will not witness the brutality.
Interviews for Trafford’s new Director of Customer Service. Yes they can still recruit directors.
Inaugural meeting of ‘Transport for Greater Manchester Committee’ (Shadow). The new committee to replace GMITA – at this stage it’s really about getting constitution sorted and terms of reference
Door Knocking in Urmston. A very good response in one of the more affluent areas of Urmston ward – people are seeing through this Conservative Government’s attacks on public services. The brand is being retoxified.