Oh yes, and have you seen her new blog?
We had our second night of scrutinising the "detail" of the Tory budget proposals tonight, looking at the Environment department, and Children's services. Except there was not a lot of detail, no explanation of the likely impact of the various proposals, and absolutely no sense of priority as to where savings could or should be made. The overall proposals are in the papers to the "November Council Meeting, pages 19-27"
Let me get this straight, I have been responsible for producing savings budgets in Hounslow, of greater and lesser severity, for many years unitl 2006. I am quite clear that savings can be made without impact on users/residents, or that there can be a different service that produces better outcomes for people at less cost - for example frail elderly people can usually be better cared for in their own home with addtional care services, than they in impersonal and expensive residential care. But to make these decisions you need to have open debate about the impacts on people.
Tonight I repeatedly asked to know what discussion and information the Executive had on the relative pressures and opportunities of the different services, and I was met with a wall of silence. When I listed the known pressures on Children's Services from: a 30% increase in school age over 5 years, increased referrals of neglected and abused children since Baby Peter, and further increases in profoundly desabled children living through to adulthood, Cllr McGregor (Executive Lead for Finance) first denied these pressures existed (they've been reported to the Executive on several occasions), then waffled about "imperfect market situations". Meanwhile the 2 Executive Lead Members for Children just sat on their hands - had I touched a nerve? - they certainly didn't stand up and challenge me.
And the specifics:
- ending of subsidy of Community Use of School buildings - "Not a statutory service and not relevant to Childrens services"
- ending of School uniform Grants to the poorest families - "not a statutory service, tough"
- cutting almost £900,000 from Childrens services, play, youth, Looked After children (ie in care) and School improvement - "We're going to lose the grants anyway, so we might as well make the cut now"
On the Environment Budget the proposal is to increase charges (mainly parking) by 5% - but we pointed out that is not the same as increasing income by 5%. They looked as though they hadn't thought of that, or that they had heard of elasticity of demand.
What a way to run a Council . . . . .
Reproduced from Councillor Ruth Cadbury's *new* blog at www.ruthcadbury.com, You can contact Ruth at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 8, 2009