In his column on February 28th Council leader Anthony Christopher launched into yet another of his diatribes on how the policies of the UK Government are forcing the Cabinet into making tough decisions that they don't want to. The fact that the Local Government budget is set by the Welsh Government as usual deliberately escapes them.
He went on to say that 'not one opposition councillor has bothered to seek the advice of officers and bring forward their own proposals.' This is simply untrue. The fact is that the behind closed door policies of the Labour administration make it impossible to engage in any meaningful way.
On 17th January I emailed the Chief Executive asking for a copy of all the papers upon which the budget setting process was based. The intention of this was so that my Alliance colleagues and I could properly scrutinise the proposals being made and look at alternative means of cutting costs.
The response I had was quite frankly astounding, as I was told that the report which went to Cabinet, and which was publicly available online, contained ALL of the background papers. This raises two questions.
How can opposition Councillors be expected to come up with alternative suggestions when we do not have the full figures which outline the spending patterns of the Council? Not that we would be listened to anyway as any opposition suggestions fall on deaf years in RCT.
Secondly, and more importantly, did the Cabinet, and subsequently the entire Labour council group, really vote to increase Council tax by 3.95%, make service cuts and increase charges based solely on the headline figures given to them by Officers?
The Cabinet report was basic in the extreme and contained mere outline proposals with no substance. For example it didn't answer such obvious questions as:
What charges are envisioned for bulky waste collection?
Will there be any redundancies as a result of the decrease in street cleansing and grass cutting activities?
What precisely will the cut backs in street cleansing activities mean?
What alternatives were looked at with regard to charges other than a flat, across the board, 5% above RPI increase?
Where will cuts be made in the events and marketing budget?
There is no doubt a raft of ways in which money could be saved within the Council, but how much would be saved and where cuts could be made we cannot tell without access to the full financial information. It seems that, according to the Chief Executive, those Cabinet members paid a full time salary to run this Authority have bothered not to look at any of it, and will not allow the rest of us to.
Cllr Mike Powell
Welsh Liberal Democrat, Trallwn.