County Council budget

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David Whipp
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County Council budget

Post by David Whipp » 21 Feb 2014, 08:37

Lancashire county council set its budget yesterday. With over £300 million of reductions to find over the next three years, it was inevitable that some unpalatable proposals would have to be included to achieve a balanced budget.

But I'm pleased that we won the fight to take out cuts to winter gritting services and across the board bus cuts.

I was alarmed at a proposal from the Tories to turn off or remove more than half the street lights in residential areas or on main roads. This was the second largest item on the Conservatives' cuts list. The largest, so called saving, was a proposal to increase borrowing... (surprising given the lectures on reducing debt!) They would borrow up to £18.5 million to buy vehicles instead of buying them from revenue; a financial fiddle which reduces expenditure in the short term, but puts up costs massively after a few years.

A majority of councillors voted to increase council tax by just less than 2%. This will help protect services next year and in the future.

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Re: County Council budget

Post by Stanley » 21 Feb 2014, 09:24

That doesn't surprise me David. Kick the can down the road, a favourite Tory strategy. As for turning the lights off, it's cloud cuckoo land. Nice to see you in there fighting for the gritters! By the way, I loved the piece about our MP and a bloke called Paul White (who he?) hogging photo opportunities.... Time for you to get out there David and get some pics in the paper!
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Re: County Council budget

Post by David Whipp » 21 Feb 2014, 10:49

Thanks Stanley.

Quite a few of my photos appear in the local press; nowadays, I'm more likely to be behind the camera than in front of it though.

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Re: County Council budget

Post by plaques » 21 Feb 2014, 11:02

My observation is that the majority of MP's and councilors on an individual basis appear to be quite reasonable intelligent people. However, collectively they often lose all sense of objectivity and resort to primitive tribalism. I often wonder if there is a suitable medical term for this behaviour?

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Re: County Council budget

Post by Stanley » 22 Feb 2014, 06:23

Self-preservation?
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Re: County Council budget

Post by Whyperion » 13 Mar 2014, 13:32

Stanley wrote: Kick the can down the road, a favourite Tory strategy.
Can we say Treasury Strategy, it seems to happen whomever is in Westminster Govt.

Re Vehicle Purchases, are not local authorities on resource accounting? A cash spend from borrowing or from reserves is still a cash spend though (netting off not allowed) when doing the funds flow returns. In the 1980s leasing was popular, not Corpn tax paying places like local authorities could finance lease capital items from banks that paid high CT, as operating equipment got at least 100% first year CT allowances this reduced banks taxable profits , their cash saving was shared with the authority,(generally worked out at a Bank's net return of 5to7% I think it was Lawson that ended this as the Treasury realised they were getting less cash/tax revenues, so thats why the local authority cash expenditure went up. (also note the vehicles would have now 20% vat which is straight back to Treasury/EU).
The lights idea is not totally daft,(if implemented sensibly- there is a major village to the north of london that desparately needs lighting on its road to the train station - its very black as houses are set back behind hedges ets ) though noted that newer ones can be more directional and cheaper to run than older types

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Re: County Council budget

Post by Stanley » 14 Mar 2014, 04:53

Regardless of who is doing it, it is still a favourite Tory strategy and the use has spread to other parties. Godron was very enthusiastic about keeping expenditure off the current account.
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Re: County Council budget

Post by David Whipp » 12 Feb 2016, 12:07

Dismayed at the outcome of yesterday's county council budget meeting; despite getting some worthwhile concessions in the final budget, the funding for bus services has been cut by three quarters and there's no extra funding to cushion the cuts in libraries.

The good news is that transport for disabled people to day centres has been saved after the administration backed down on axing the service and put forward a proposal to combine the service with other transport provision to save money; we'll need to make sure that this is a workable arrangement.

Also welcome was reversing the £50,000 cut to flood prevention staff. Another, partial, win was earmarking just over £1.4 million in a contingency for highway services in case unspecified savings cannot be achieved. There was also unanimous support for half a million of unused capital funding being moved into the highway repair budget.

That's about the end of the good news; the rest of the county budget is pretty bleak. Because of government cuts and rising social care costs, the county council faces a financial black hole of hundreds of millions of pounds; it's inevitable that services will change beyond recognition in the next couple of years.

Incredibly, overall, the government refused to provide any extra funding for Lancashire in their final financial settlement, despite awarding £300 million to local councils - which appears to be targeted at more affluent areas (for example, Surrey got an extra £24 million...).

Together with other county councillors, my group proposed extra funding for buses to prevent the huge cuts in services in April. Altogether, there were three amendments, with between £2.5 and £3.75 million being proposed for buses (in addition to the £2 million included in the budget). Unfortunately, the Labour administration, independent and Green councillors narrowly voted these amendments down and forced through the cuts.

We also put forward funding of £1.5 million to cushion a £3 million cut in the libraries budget, but this failed to get support from the other groups. Our proposal was for the funding to give additional scope for alternative ways of providing services to be worked out with volunteer groups and other organisations, rather than see the wholesale closure of 40 libraries across the county.

At the final vote, the cuts budget was voted through by Labour, Independent and Green councillors, with the Liberal group and Conservatives voting against.

A lot of hard work will be needed in the next few weeks to save as many local facilities as we can. In West Craven, the best hope of keeping a library service in Earby is if we can keep New Road Community Centre open and provide a library there. Barlick's Library, the Children's Centre and Youth Centre are all jeopardised; we need to fight to keep the library and it may be possible to combine the children and youth service in a single building.

It's highly likely that the last Burnley/Barnoldswick bus will be lost. The other subsidised service at risk is the Preston/Skipton bus that comes through Barlick. One positive thing locally is that the new operators of the Barlick Town Bus have said they'll operate the service on a commercial basis from April. This is likely to involve some changes in the way the service is run; I don't have any details about this at the moment.

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Re: County Council budget

Post by Stanley » 13 Feb 2016, 04:56

I sympathise with you David. What you are describing is the inevitable result of the savage cuts made by this present administration in the name of austerity. One thing is certain, the areas that will lose will be quality of life and social care. In the long run this is going to be a terrible cost. Meanwhile, in another part of the forest the upper echelons are doing quite nicely thank you.....
Will we have a local council in five years?
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Re: County Council budget

Post by David Whipp » 13 Feb 2016, 10:11

It's being done in the name of austerity, but we all know that it's ideologically driven.

As to whether we'll have a local council in 5 years... At Pendle, the strategy that's been pursued over the last 3 years is based on the borough council maybe not surviving. Where possible, services and facilities are being handed over to parish and town councils. This is allowing things to be kept going (eg Civic Hall in Barlick) and also protects facilities from the clutches of asset strippers in the event that Pendle Council is taken over (or merged into a much larger authority).

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Re: County Council budget

Post by PanBiker » 13 Feb 2016, 10:34

We will be back to the equivalent of the old UDC then more or less. Regarding asset stripping, it's not life and death but it may be a good time to make concerted efforts to retrieve our three wartime fundraising plaques that were removed from the Town Hall when the building changed used. Hopefully they are languishing in some storage area at Pendle. They are an excellent example of voluntary contribution and self help in time of austerity and could have a new home in the Civic Centre as an example to all.
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Re: County Council budget

Post by David Whipp » 13 Feb 2016, 10:49

I asked about the plaques a while ago, without success.

Afraid we'll be nowhere near having an UDC though.

When I was researching something in the years after WW2 in the minutes of BUDC, the scope of what the local council was doing was impressive; no way we'll get such powers back with the centralising governments we have nowadays.

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Re: County Council budget

Post by Stanley » 14 Feb 2016, 05:01

It was under the aegis of the old local board/UDC that Barlick transformed itself from 1885 onwards. Installation of gas, water and sewage, the laying out of the new buildings and all the services that supported a growing and modernising town. The other factor was that any profits made in the town were kept there, no national or multinational firms syphoning money out of the local economy. This is why I have always favoured some form of local sales/business tax ring fenced for local investment. We will never see this again but the fact is that it worked. All politics is local politics and the same applies to funding. The centralisation of these powers is probably the biggest con trick ever played on the electorate. Bit like your weekly wage going straight to the Treasury and some of it paid back to you in 'benefits'. The modern logical extension of this is the gaping hole in tax gathering which we see now as large firms farm their profits out off shore and legally avoid paying their dues. The same sales or business tax argument applies to them. Time for a complete reorganisation of these matters?
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