Monday, 14 February 2011

Tax and Spend: Reading Labour Rejects Ideas in Favour of Old Certainties

Yesterday evening at Cabinet we considered a paper on ways to raise more revenue as a Council. This is not something any of us might want to consider but we need to find new ways to pay for services which does not involve increasing Council Tax and to go some way toward filling the hole in the Council's budget after years of  mismanagement of our local and national public finances by Labour.

The Growing Revenue and Cost Recovery Project involved inviting Deloitte to identify a series of business cases to reduce the Council's net budget and improve cost recovery for our services, and it is in addition to a number of projects that are currently ongoing to place the Council's finances on a more sustainable footing.

Over 10 weeks 12 business cases were developed with a potential net cumulative benefit of £3.4 million over 5 years. Not a huge amount but a step in the right direction.

Not all of the cases will be taken forward but some of them for example where it is proposed that the Council changes its existing processes to recover lost revenue in the delivery of services seem to me to be sensible.

Many such revenue-raising projects have been undertaken by other councils for many years. But not RBC when it was run by Labour. As councillors in my view we need to be open to new ideas, identify the best and then work out which proposals are right for our area.

At the meeting Cabinet we were requested to endorse 10 business cases to explore further. To be clear, to be taken forward any such proposals would need to be worked up into formal proposals in consultation with residents and stakeholders before being formally adopted.

At the Council Meeting of 25 January the administration accepted an amendment tabled by Labour councillors to the motion on Budget savings proposas for 2011/12 which instructs the Chief Executive to include proposals to increase revenue as an alternative to cuts in services.

Following that meeting you might have expected then that Reading Labour councillors would endorse the approach the Coalition Administration is taking then in exploring ways to raise extra revenue.

But no. They rejected them all.

But as we have found since taking over the running of the Council last May it is all about political point scoring to Labour rather than working as an effective opposition i.e. with other political parties for the benefit of Reading residents.

Labour councillors clearly did not expect Conservative or Liberal Democrat support for their amendment that evening in the first place so ended up in the embarassing position of voting against their own motion.

The Deputy Leader of the Labour Group began by saying the previous Labour administration had been working on a number of cost recovery ideas for years (but had clearly never got round to implementing them) before proceeding  to dismiss without exception all the proposlas contained in the paper as 'unimaginative'.

Here is yet more evidence if it were needed that Labour councillors have completely run out of ideas after more than years running the Council.

I waited but no alternative ideas for raising revenue were put forward by either the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Labour Group in their response to the paper.

Once again this left me wondering exactly what ideas Labour in Reading actually have to pay for Council services given they have opposed every single budget saving we have proposed thus far.

Clearly not committing themselves to any proposals for raising revenue ahead of the coming local elections is a greater priority to Reading Labour Party than helping to repair the Council's finances and ensuring funding is available to protect vital services - cervices which they themselves say they have pledged to protect.

As I said in the meeting their non-contribution to this important discussion leads me to reach the inevitable conclusion that the only 'idea' Labour are likely to put forward at next week's crucial budget Council meeting next week is a massive increase in Council Tax.

1 comment:

  1. I am really please the council is actively looking at this idea.

    It is something i suggested in the consultation

    Partnership with local business is one of the
    things that can benefit everyone.

    As for Labour they have nothing to offer except
    mindless opposition.

    No surprise there then.