Thursday, October 31, 2013

A helpful lesson for RCT Labour Councillors.

It is perhaps appropriate that with much of the talk in RCT at the moment being about education, Labour Councillors, including Cabinet Members who are making massively important budget decisions, seem to have no grasp at all on basic arithmetic.

At the Cabinet meeting on 21st October, Cabinet Member Andrew Morgan, after the obligatory piece of nonsense that the cuts are coming from Westminster, raged that the Council needed to make £60million worth of cuts every year for the next few years. 

At the Council meeting on 30th October Cllr Graham Thomas, whose voice is rarely heard in the Chamber, repeated the same mantra, that no Labour Councillor wants to cut nursery education but that they have to make “£60million worth of cuts this year, next year, the year after…”

Others have come up with the same line.  Now either they are deliberately trying to misinform the public for their own political gain or they really are that stupid.

To quote from the report which was presented to Cabinet by the Director of Finance, who, it is hoped, has a good grasp on these things,

On the 22nd July 2013, Cabinet received an update on the latest projection of the Council’s revenue budget position for the period to 2017/18.

This highlighted an estimated budget gap over the 4 years from 2014/15 to 2017/18 of £56M based on the budget assumptions and modelling undertaken at that time. There is clearly a range of funding gap scenarios possible, and the actual detail, in respect of the first year (2014/15) gap will not be known until the provisional local government settlement is announced on the 16th October 2013.

Given the size of the budget gap faced and the timescale requirements for any implementation of service changes, Cabinet agreed to receive reports on potential service change / cut proposals as soon as these become available, given the need to balance an estimated gap of almost £16M (at best) for 2014/15.

 That estimate of £56m has increased in light of the actual settlement to around £70m, but it is still OVER FOUR YEARS.

 Nobody is denying that these savings are substantial and some difficult decisions have to be made, but the Labour party should at least get their facts right.

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