Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Reading's budget savings proposals…

I have now finished my first attempt at wading through Labour's budget savings proposals. Pretty depressing! Fairness was my motivation for getting into party politics not competing as to who can make Tory cuts most sympathetically. Parties of all persuasions have complained about different aspects of government cuts going too far. It would be great to see a cross-party coalition of councils saying enough! But I won't hold my breath.

For the last few years the Council has been having to make cuts with last year's – following on from the Tory led government’s comprehensive spending review – being the biggest. This year the black hole that the Council has to fill is £8.7 million. The Labour group have said that they will be accepting the council tax freeze grant/bribe meaning that their budget revolves around cutting and increasing charges – efficiency, income generation and service change transformation.

Here are a few of my particular concerns so far:

– generally the Council will have less capacity and less flexibility
– schools are being asked to do a lot for themselves whereas in the past services have been provided centrally
– back office cuts will put more pressure on front office staff who will have less time to spend with service users
– changes to children's special needs transport mean that in the future people will find it harder to access this service
– what will changes to Learning Disability Supported Living and the Respite Care Service mean for the service users
– job losses
– an increase in the charge for a second parking permit from £60 to £75

There are undoubtedly opportunities to do things better, but I will leave it to Labour to sell the positives in their budget.

I have had briefings on some of these and we are continuing to look into things. Feel free to send me through your comments.

The budget savings proposals go to Cabinet on February 13 but aren't debated. They then go to full Council on February 21 where they are debated.

For anyone interested you can read the full budget here. The "interesting bit" starts on page 50 – in Acrobat – and is headed Appendix 2.

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