Sunday, December 10, 2017

Redbridge Council Tax to rise again next year
- but more cuts to come

The headline figures are that Redbridge Council Tax will rise by 5% again next April (2018) and there will be another £14million of cuts “savings”. The 5% includes a 3% increase for Adult social care. This is the maximum allowed by central government without a local referendum and we all know how problematic they are.

image via wikimedia commons licence
Overall, Redbridge council has made cuts “savings” of around £132million with a further £73million required over the next five years. For next year, “savings” of £7.3million (out of the total £14million) have been identified so far.

The identified “savings” are listed here and do not seem to be controversial. Mostly streamlining existing services to make them more cost efficient – which raises the question - why were they not done years ago when we were flush? You can have your say on these proposals here.

Here’s Kam Rai via the Ilford Recorder. He’s the fellow who holds the purse strings down at the Town Hall.
“All local authorities are facing a time of uncertainty, given the lack of clarity from central government about future funding after the period of the current spending review which ends in March 2020.
“These are extremely challenging times for our council and local authorities have had to bear a significant level of funding cuts. I will be making the Government aware of the rising demand pressures in Redbridge which should be taken into account.
“The social care crisis is well documented and the only solution the government have made to raise funding has been the adult social care precept, which is an addition onto council tax.
“On our part we continue to redesign services to deliver better outcomes with reduced funding.”
However, he has been accused of trying to “mislead the public” by Scott Wilding in the local Guardian who are apparently biased against local Conservatives. Scott is standing as a Conservative candidate next May in Wanstead Village ward and is a former Redbridge council officer.
"I’m particularly angry as someone who worked for the council for 12 years to see Kam Rai saying we can’t afford to do important things when they can afford pools and communications officers.
“They are trying to mislead the public. They have choices to make but are not making the right ones and are being fiscally irresponsible by blaming the government.
“I understand the council is under pressure but it’s hypocritical that Kam said the budget had nothing in it for the council.
“The fact he said they’re struggling but have funded swimming pools and restructured the council and employ communications officers at £80,000 a go.
“I find it difficult to understand the hypocrisy when they say government has cut our funding, but we have money for pools.”
“All the bad choices are being blamed on others when Labour run London and Redbridge.
“Cllr Athwal (Labour leader of Redbridge Council) has decisions to make and he needs to stand by those decisions and not blame someone else.”
Well, I’m not a former council officer nor a wannabe councillor, but I do know the difference between capital and revenue budgets and I know that it is illegal for councils to use their capital resources to prop up revenue spending. What they are allowed to do is to spend capital on infrastructure projects that are capable of producing income to supplement revenue spending. Whether the new swimming pools and associated gymnasiums achieve this, as is intended, remains to be seen, but that is the nature of any investment – there is always a risk.

I also know that most of the (reduced amount of) money flowing from central government down to local authorities is ring-fenced. That is, it is in the form of grants for specific purposes and cannot be spent on anything else. So the leeway for local decisions is very limited. I sometimes wonder why we need councillors at all. So much for the local devolution and the abolition of the centrist state we were promised back in the mid 80s. It’s a bit like paying benefits in the form of food vouchers so the recipient cannot spend it on Booze, Fags or Lottery tickets.

Oh, and those communication officers. We had the Head of Communications come to talk to us at our coffee morning back in July. She told us she was leaving along with the rest of her team. So they’re replacements, not new or additions.

Have I missed anything?

1 comment:

  1. How would the residents of Redbridge fare if public spending, per head, was cut by 20%, I wonder? To be fair, this is all Public spending, not just Council Tax but the fact remains that every Redbridge resident has a whopping 25% more spent on them than virtually anybody else in England apart from the North West & North East.

    Houser of Commons Library: Public expenditure by country and region

    What Public Services would you give up or downsize if you had 20% less to spend?