Thursday, 28 November 2013

Why we didn't amend the Council Budget; an anorak's guide

As my colleagues from the last Council will know I support constructive Budget amendments.   So why not this year?

Well, amendments can only make a good budget better.  They cannot fix a bad budget.  Despite that we still submitted an amendment for the approval of the Monitoring Officer and Section 151 Officer.

However, this year the goalposts were changed.  I was informed that the amendment would not be acceptable for debate as an additional resolution but only to amend one of the budget resolutions already proposed.  Further, that the Monitoring Officer considered that all the Budget resolutions should be taken together (as they were on the day despite the suggestion of Mebyon Kernow to the contrary).

We could not support the whole Budget because it has made so little progress in addressing the problems the Council faces.  The Cabinet are not being tough enough early enough on the the Council's own costs. For example, how can a vanity project like building an ivory tower in Bodmin for BT be supported?  The costs of projects like Bodmin will come out of the money which could otherwise be spent on front line services.

In theory we could have submitted a whole different Budget but that would have been an undeliverable amount of work for the Finance Department.   There is also the difficulty that where it involves staff changes you need to consult staff and the unions.  Realistically, this is just not possible from the back benches in terms of logistics or timetable, assuming, of course, that the Cabinet was prepared to facilitate it.  We circumvented this last year by supporting the Lib Dem amendment- officers had not blocked that from going forward because they were convinced it would fail.  Arguably, they were being more cautious this year - hence the moving of the goalposts.

Finally, our amendments or alternative budget proposals would need others' support and we doubt that there is enough appetite in this Council to take an early grip of difficult issues.

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