John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
  Council Meeting 22nd February 2005
Yesterday's council meeting had two main items of business:
The behaviour of the Labour Party was unusual. They said that they had no proposed changes to our Council Plan. They also called for a Council Tax increase of only 1.5%. Their calculations involved taking £3,642,000 out of the "rainy day" accounts (contingencies, balances, reserves) which is risky as it makes it harder for the council to cope with unpredicted issues.

At the end of the meeting they refused to vote on the budget. Why they would not press the "abstain budget" is not clear. It is as if they all walked out.

However, the budget has now been set. It involves an increase from £301,096,000 to £345,363,000 on Social Care which is £44,267,000. It involves using the fourth option for housing and resolves a number of other matters.

Labour's budget amendment indicated that they supported precisely everything that we were doing, but they wanted to take £1,566,000 out of unallocated policy contingency, £780,000 from carried forward balances (departmental reserves) and £1,296,000 from Earmarked Reserves.

The problem with such a change is that all it does is a one-off change of a capital nature to a revenue account. It is not sustainable and means that the next year's budget already has a hole in the revenue accounts (because it cannot be found every year).

Net Expenditure Figures Revenue Budget (in millions)


Portfolio2004/52005/6
Leader69.21667.229
Deputy24.46625.612
Education718.636768.303
Personnel Equalities3.6083.724
Housing General Fund34.32139.282
Leisure Sport Culture41.30645.043
Local Services/Community Safety4.0564.637
Regeneration18.90521.070
Social Care and Health301.096345.363
Transport and Street Services84.31490.026
Development Control Committee2.8252.880
Public Protection Committee13.36612.304
Licensing Committee00
District and Constituency Committees99.45697.382
Net Spend1,424.0301,530.979
Capitalised(71.541)(85.415)
Contingencies9.0066.896
Partnership Priorities05.670
Procurement PEP Savings0(6.800)
Net Expenditure1,361.4951,451.330
Reserves Adjustment(1.3)1
Budget Requirement1,360.1951,452.330
 
Comments:
Difficult how to predict how opposition's will behave. I have been on Sandwell Council for 6 years and I have never witnessed the Lib Dems or Tories put forward any budget alternatives.
 
Personally I feel it is important for an opposition to put forward some alternatives and one of the keys to that is the budget. However, I accept that this does not always happen although I thought we did put forward alternatives in Sandwell.
 
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