In the Council Chamber last Wednesday we were once again submitted to the same old diatribe from the Labour Members as they rubber stamped the decisions on their front line service cuts. Their current ticker-tape runs along the lines of:
These cuts are not our fault, they are all down to Westminster and the nasty Lib Dems.
The opposition keep complaining but they haven't put any alternatives forward.
Wednesday saw the addition of two new ones:
The opposition have opposed every cut we have suggested.
The coalition Government said this week they would make more cuts in Welfare services.
This string of what are, quite frankly, lies they seem to hope will convince the public that they are not in any way to blame for anything that goes on in RCT. This despite the fact that they run the Council with a massive majority of 60 out of 75 Councillors, and their Labour colleagues are also in charge at Cardiff Bay.
So let's look at a few more facts.
Yes there are substantial cuts being made in public spending from Westminster. This is because of the huge mess left behind by the Labour party in 2010. Summed up in the note left by Labour's Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne to his successor:
"Dear Chief Secretary, I'm afraid that there is no money. Kind regards and good luck."
Quite apart from the unbelievable flippancy shown this about summed up the situation, and whether it is you own household budget or the country's you cannot spend what you haven't got. Cutbacks in public spending have been essential, and there are some which have not been handled as well as they could have been - the extra bedroom subsidy for example - but things have to change.
The Welsh Government receives the bulk of its money via a block grant from Westminster, and yes that was reduced. However, they then decide how to spend it, what the split is between Health, Education, Local Government, etc. They also decide how much of it they waste. £52million to buy an airport with no business plan for how they can make it work, an extra £10million to do it up, and money spent on subsidising a bus route there that is not attracting any passengers. This after years of subsidising a North / South air link to the tune of over £80 per passenger.
Money spent on trips abroad and international offices which fail to bring in business to Wales to justify the cost. Failed projects such as Genesis, years of money poured into Communities First without any rigorous assessment of outcomes. Road projects which over-run and end up costing triple what they were quoted at such as both the Porth and Church Village by passes. The list goes on.
So the Welsh Labour Government share out what is left after they have bolstered up their pet projects and decide how much Councils get. They then get to decide what they spend it on. There are statutory services they have to provide - education, social services etc. but as long as they provide those then they are free by and large to do what they want with the overall pot of money.
Then of course we have the Council spending on their pet projects. In RCT there is a particular fondness for spending on Labour publicity in one form or another. Your money to spread their propaganda - a massive PR and Strategy department, the much hated Outlook magazine, £200,000 or so a year on advertising locally. More managers than you can shake a stick at, bolstered up by expensive external consultants for all sorts of minor HR and legal issues. Chauffeur driven cars for the Mayor and the Cabinet. Again, the list goes on.
The cuts in public spending are not nice but they are necessary. For far too long the public sector have spent money with no regard at all to whether it was being spent wisely. It was, they thought, a bottomless well. Trouble is that well is close to running dry, and it is time for a degree of rationing.
The Labour Cabinet in RCT seem intent on making the most controversial cuts they can, and going about in in the most ludicrous piecemeal fashion. Their reasoning is obvious - they want to score political points. Why else would they be going about this process in the way they are? With no mention of cutting back on their propaganda machine or any other areas which affect them.
There is no thought of the residents who are affected and who they are elected to represent.
Cllr Mike Powell