Friday, November 17, 2006

15.65 million pound windfall

Council gets cash injection

Any cash handouts from Gordon Brown to South Tyneside Council are generally to be welcomed, however, they usually come with strings attached. Generally speaking grants given to local councils these days come with the proviso that the money must be expended on specific targets, it's a mind set with Tony Blair's government!

Today our Labour Leader in South Tyneside Cllr. Paul Waggott is gleefully rubbing his hands at the prospect of 16.65 million pounds coming our way from the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund. The cash is earmarked for specific areas as outlined in the Shields Gazette report this evening.

Perhaps we should be casting our eyes and minds forwards to next year's municipal budget recognising the good work being done by council officers in identifying and making decent savings in this year's revenue account. Perhaps there is a case to be made for downward adjustments in next year's spending plans in light of these additional grants, coupled with further reductions in areas that will cause the least disruption to services. I argued last year that we should be making plans for greater use of administrative "outsourcing" (something that the spin doctors now call strategic partnerships) and further staff reductions through natural wastage. It really is possible to tailor a budget that would provide good services for around the same expenditure as this year. Reserve funds and contingencies need to be replenished so it would be "prudent" to save wherever possible.

It is usual for the Labour Party in South Tyneside to give us all 'options' in a public consultation exercise each year as to how much we would like our council tax to rise. As if we are all generally agreed that a rise in tax is necessary and welcome!

  • What would you like?
  • A 1.5% increase?
  • A 2.5% increase?
  • A 4.5% increase?

Well how about asking if we would like a zero increase next year?

How about asking if we would prefer a 1.5% decrease for a change?

These things are possible, and desirable if we are to continue to attract inward investment and jobs in South Tyneside, if are to continue seeing an increase in house building, and if we wish to retain a stable population and workforce.

I think our councillors, of all parties, ought to be questioning WHY spending needs to be increasing year after year, they should be asking HOW we can expect the local economy to grow and prosper under conditions of heavy taxation, they should be asking HOW MUCH the council tax payer is prepared to put up with. They should also be remembering that the taxes raised come from around just 25% of the population of South Tyneside.

Curly says, let's see a sensible budget for next year!


Shields Gazette.

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