Monday, 18 January 2010

Countdown To The Budget

Opening shots have been fired on council's local budget plan for 2010 as the preliminary discussions reach their conclusion and the different sides begin to set out their stalls.

Howard Thomas of the Common Sense Party lights the fuse by recalling the heated marathon discussions which lead to LibDems eeking concessions out of the Labour proposals last year.

He expects similar dramatics this year and takes a vicious sideswipe at the Conservatives for their destructive attitude 12 months ago (when they argued for reductions in Council Tax without offering any ideas on how to pay for it), wondering whether they have come up with any yet.

Howard says "it is a frightening thought that the Tory ideas are in such short supply."

The majority of the £120m+ budget is set on a baseline with about 3/4 of the total funded by government grants, which are ringfenced to cover statutory requirements.

The rest comes from tax reciepts, other charges and fines levied. With Council Tax rises capped at at maximum 5% there is little room for political discretion over additional spending, but this becomes the battleground for intense debate as the primary means for parties to put in place the principles their votes have mandated.

Independent Cllr Tony Jones doesn't have to suffer huge amounts of internal wrangling so is quickest off the mark and presents his 4 proposals.

He opposes the massive investment to replace the Civic Centre, suggests selling off Reading Buses, wishes to end annual elections and thinks road infrastructure investment should be delayed.

Meanwhile the local establishment and council bureaucracy have their own interests to look after.

Borough Council Chief Executive Michael Coughlin reflects the official view supported by the dominant Reading Labour Party as they point to new research showing reasons for optimism about economic recovery, using this to condition the view that cuts may be less necessary this year than might be expected or may be demanded.


Update: Cllr Benson uses her campaign diary to highlight the disparities between different neighbourhoods across the town, noting that younger people are being hit disproportionately hard by the national economic gloom.

She says the growing gap between rich and poor is not just a matter of statistics, but of unfairness made manifest by the current authorities in ways which blight whole families and communities.


Background: all articles tagged Reading Budget 2009/10

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