I was unfortunate to have been at last night’s full council meeting. This was the meeting that would set the Council’s budget for the next few years, including the financial year ahead. It is doesn’t half look bleak. We warned that it would be even more bleak if Labour took control of the council last may, and our crystal ball appears not to have told lies. It wouldn’t have been plain sailing if we still had control, but it wouldn’t be a shambles! As Cllr Hilary Jones (Leader of Derby’s Lib Dems) pointed out “This is not the budget we would be presenting if in charge of the city”. This is too true, no local party I am a member of would present this budget. That became very clear when we were scrutinising the budget over the last few weeks.
Cllr Sarah Russell (Labour cabinet member for finance) repeatedly blamed the government. Why not accept responsibility for your own budget? This is Labour’s budget for Derby.
Firstly, the council have not accepted the government grant that would enable it to freeze council tax. Over the last few days I have heard Labour’s leadership calling it a ‘pay day loan’. This implies that the government payment is a ‘loan’ not a ‘grant’. It does not have to be paid back. Accepting this would have helped the pockets of Derby’s residents. Instead of launching a smash and grab raid on them. Accept the grants while they are available – Makes sense!
Secondly, ‘The Brown Bin Tax’ – Derby’s Liberal Democrats understand the need to recycle. Therefore we would aim not to impose any unfair barriers to stop people doing so. This Brown Bin Tax does just that. This is unfair in many ways, but not least because it is a stealth tax. It hits every single person the same way. A pensioner on the basic state pension will pay the same amount as someone earning £90,000 a year. We expect a HUGE amount of people to stop using the Brown bin or hand them back to the council. This will lead to more rubbish being put in the black bin. This will just create extra costs in the future for the council, that will have to be passed onto the Derby taxpayer. Black bin waste costs more to dispose of in Landfill. The Labour Administration have not budgeted for the extra costs that will occur. Again causing more problems later down the line. Problems the Derby taxpayer will have to pay for.
Thirdly, The council now has the power to set their own localised council tax scheme for those on lower incomes. Those who previously did not receive a council tax bill will now receive a smaller one. When I first started looking into this, I noticed that other councils were planning to create charges of around 8.5%. That being of the full amount of a council tax bill. Here in Derby I noticed that some of the bills were going to be as much as 20%. Upon investigation it turns out that Derby City Council has not applied for the ‘transitional grant’. Other council’s have, which is why their payments are smaller. If in charge we would have accepted the grant in order to have protected the most vulnerable. The most vulnerable people who Labour always claim to protect, and who they always expect to vote for them. I am still trying to get my head around the different types of people who will get different bills. This is something I am going to get looked into.
There is also a lot of money being diverted towards paying for Labour pet projects. £1 Million has been spent on a strange housing scheme that benefits just 40 people? There has also been some tinkering with local service provision. Labour have created some new high paying roles. Alongside having three paid ward councillors, there will now be another paid manager. Liberal Democrat councillors have argued that they are more than capable of looking after the wards they are elected in. These new roles are not necessary. These are just examples of new Labour projects. I don’t mind new projects if the are worthwhile and good value for the Derby taxpayer.
Alongside this diversion of money into pet projects we have budgets for the voluntary sector being slashed. Volunteers work for good causes, but do have overheads. In one instance the funding has been slashed by 81%!! I had a good conversation with some of the volunteers, and during the conversation I had a realisation. By doing this it will just create potentially higher costs down the line. Very little thought has gone into this at all. When I was talking to one volunteer she said that prior to last May’s elections she received a letter from Cllr Paul Bayliss (Labour leader of the council) saying that if Labour was elected to run the city he would look into the situation. In her words “After he took over as Leader, he looked at it and cut the funding further, I wish he had never looked at it at all”.
Anyways I could talk all night about the budget, I will not rattle on any further….Although it is very true – This is not the Budget Derby’s Liberal Democrats would have passed.