Impact of Cuts
The details of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending review are still coming but we’re getting a clearer picture of the areas of impact on the council. Rather than list them all, I’ve picked out three high profile issues.
- 28% cuts in the amount granted to councils over the next four years
- freeze in council tax rises
- Housing Benefit changes
The cuts to the council
The 28% cuts are over 4 years but the deepest cuts will come in the spring. We still need details but for instance it looks as though the Area Based Grants will disappear. They accounted for £10m in this year’s budget. Trafford has been operating a spending challenge now closed. We’re going to have to see how Trafford responds. They’re past record suggests they’ll hit the poorest areas hardest. Hale will be left wondering what the fuss is about just as they did last winter when they were first to get their streets cleared of snow.
Council Tax Freeze
Councils will not be able to raise income through council tax rises. Expect that regressive fees, fines and charges will increase in Trafford.
Two thirds of rental properties in Trafford will not be fully covered by housing benefit. The threat of homelessness is there to see. 28% of Trafford’s (LHA) Housing Benefit recipients are in employment.
Activity this week
Council meeting – I voted against Town Hall development. I didn’t see how we could be spending this money when we we’re looking to rationalise the activities Trafford performs. Increasingly we’re going to see councils pooling resources. We might not even need a shiny new HQ by the time its built.
I also voted to delay submitting potential sites for the possible construction of waste disposal incinerators. This is of particular concern since two of the sites were Trafford Park. The Labour group wanted to examine and restrict what we were handing over to the waste authority and we were supported by the Lib Dems. We were still defeated by Tories who voted obediently and silently. They really didn’t look as though they had a clue.
Finally I voted to scrap the new magazine that Trafford has just signed up to. Yes Trafford is facing massive cuts but a magazine providing a platform for self publicity is still considered a necessity. Tory councillors again dutifully voted like sheep although this time with gusto. One councillor, Kathy Bullock said the magazine was what she’d always been waiting for. I’m ashamed to say I burst out laughing at the absurdity of this. I should not have done so. She clearly is out of touch with any sense of priority. It’s not funny it’s pathetic.
So it was another really depressing council meeting.
Two separate appointments took a considerable time with the selection of a new head at Barton Clough and a new Council Legal Monitoring Officer at Trafford. I was on the shortlisting and interview panels for both.
I attended the Budget preparation meeting.
I attended the Lostock Community Partnership meeting and gave an update on issues affecting the area. Delighted with good news that Lostock Park playbuilder funding has got the go-ahead. Great that at least one Labour initiative has been continued.
I attended the Balloon launch and have arranged appointments to see a writer in connection with community environmental campaigns. I have also obtained an appointment to see Trafford’s air pollution officer in respect of emissions monitoring. Additionally I got into a bit of a spat with Conservative Councillors who argued I was being unfair in highlighting their absence from community meetings concerned with the power station. They had a better turnout at yesterday’s balloon launch – still not matching Labour’s response but better than it was.
Met with Trafford Housing Trust Officer on site to discuss problems with Abbey Close footpath. Residents have proposed closing it. I hope we can take it on to a wider consultation.
Engaged with Lostock College Parents to support building on its more positive profile gained in the successive campaign to fight its closure.
There doesn’t seem to be any notable planning or licensing applications to report this week. I’ve still posted the summaries which can be accessed from the planning and licensing tabs above.
I have also requested a call-in of the executive decision to consult on removing the subsidy from the homecare support provided to those with capital over £50k. We wanted to examine whether the effect had been fully considered.
I attended a meeting on Humphrey Park Nico field on progressing consultation in respect of improved play facilities.
And finally I attended the Mayor of Trafford’s civic reception. Disappointed that more community representatives weren’t invited. Didn’t see much evidence of the Big Society at the reception. I will be declining future invitations unless there’s an greater emphasis on the community.