Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The coalition comes to Cornwall Council

Well there's stranger things that have happened certainly, but bucking the trend of putting clear water between Westminster's bosom buddies has so far been the norm for the Cornish branch of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Today however they spoke as one voice, kneeling at the altar of austerity and leaving Cornwall to pray for the future of our public services, they agreed a set of job cuts and a tax freeze. The bottom line of this is that Cornwall Council will not raise the amount of council tax it demands from the people, although parish and town precepts may rise and Devon and Cornwall Police want more money so council tax will go up. As I blogged before rebel factions of the Tories and the Lib Dems took on the mantle of finding alternative budgets and I predicted the consultant and temp budget would be targeted. What I wrote less than two weeks ago:
Which brings me to consultants and temps no one really knows what they do outside of the council. A prime target no doubt, but politically hard for any of our intrepid trio. The Tories have spent a fortune on them but so did the last County Council run by the Liberal Democrats. Its a long held tradition between the two parties  They might gamble on revealing this but its gone on so long I really doubt the consultants can all be fired and whatever it is they do reallocated in time for the budget deadline in less than two weeks, without adversely effecting services. Don't get me wrong its an ongoing scandal but fixing something this endemic will take time.
 It turns out I wasn't completely right, as it turns our no one outside the council or councilors knows what these people do. After the Lib Dem budget was voted through this morning the council took a long recess, where it, well as the BBC journalist so eloquently put it on twitter:

Because nobody really knew what they had voted for, attracted more by the electoral leaflet friendly headline of no council tax rise than the effect on services. After the break the new interim CEO Paul Masters said that the 'indicative figures' were that 135 jobs will go, how many posts will end up going is unclear and even what effect they'll have on services. All we really have (ironic in this headline hunting policy) is headline figures, here on Cornwall Community News The Big Freeze is On, look at them yourselves, I don't know what cutting £855,000 from the staffing budget of Adult Care and Support will mean, nor what £723,00 on Children, Schools and Family, nor any of the rest of the £3.6 million, definite repercussions are difficult to find even when those that proposed this motion are asked. But they are very keen to note that frontline services won't be effected, quite how is frankly puzzling. The phrase omnishambles springs to mind.

My real disappointment was not only the rush to cuts jobs, but the lack of compassion in this budget and just how readily Cornwall's Conservatives and Liberal Democrats mimicked their bosses in London. Jobs cut with no real regard over how this would effect public services, let alone the lives of the people soon to be out of work. Again we see the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats together in unison shrinking the state for the sake of lower taxes. With no regard for how these policies will effect people, the economy and public services. The Lib Dems proposed a budget and got it passed with Tory support and the recent scandal of making those on council tax benefit pay more, was completely ignored.  Far from the minds of the coalition duo was the idea that these out of work, disabled and low paid workers could be saved from paying council tax in any alternative budget. The meeting later descended into a further farce when it was revealed the Lib Dems (Ann Kerridge) were not only proposing a motion to halt the council tax rise (which would have cost people in a band D property 42p per week) but also one to increase rent in social housing by the much more considerable rise of £2.32 a week. So for those of us outside of social housing 42p a week is not a price worth paying yet £2.32 if you're among the poorest in society is more than acceptable.