Thursday, November 06, 2014

You Choose – The Impossible Game

On Tuesday the now annual exercise of the council involving Redbridge residents in the budget setting process for the next financial year was launched to a fanfare of bugles on the council’s website Redbridge-i.

Strange isn’t it that we never got this opportunity when times were good. “Hey guys we’ve got all this extra money to spend, can you help us decide what to spend it on?” We only get the chance to help decide where not to spend it, that’s where the inevitable cuts will fall. However, I’m not going to provide you with a link. I’ll save you the trouble, I have done the exercise and this is how it works.

You start at the end and work backwards. You tick all the boxes to save money resulting in a £9.6million saving. Then tick all the boxes to raise money and you get a further £14million. Now we come to the interesting bit, where to cut the budget on what the council spends. So, you then reduce each budget line to the point where the council cannot meet its statutory duties.

The result is an 18% rise in council tax which you are not allowed to have – the maximum is 2%. So you cannot balance this budget unless the council fails in its statutory duty. This surely cannot be right, you would say, and you would be correct. There is a problem with this You Choose exercise.

Now, I’m not a financial whiz kid nor am I a mathematical genius so for me to see it means that it must be pretty simple, and it is.

This exercise is asking you to make the estimated £70million shortfall expected over the lifetime of this administration, that is 4 years, in just one year, next year.

Over to you, Redbridge Council.

I did try to telephone the (I want to listen) Leader but the telephone number on the Redbridge-i website was unobtainable.


  1. Alas, it's not broken or wrong. It's a pretty realistic picture of how nasty the choices are in local government.

    But don't worry: passing through a YouChoose budget that risks our statutory duties won't hurt anyone and your choices help us to understand residents' priorities. The real job we have is much harder...

  2. PS - I challenge our four Redbridge MPs to do this task, realise how bloody awful it is and then speak up on local government finance in the House of Commons and, in IDS' case, the Cabinet.

    1. I'm not convinced you have understood the point being made above. The £70million is a cumulative cut over 3 years but the budget spend part of You Choose is clearly marked as annual spending and is only applied once for one year.

  3. unfortunately there not a lot that he understands