National politics

Empty budget

I saw the budget live yesterday and have been following the coverage but I have had trouble raising myself to comment on it all. There was lots of Brownite twiddling with inconsequential details. For instance, it is lovely that Darling has made £100 million available to fix the roads. Apparently £4 million of this is going to London (why so little?). Our council alone has allocated £689,700 from contingency so you can see that £4 million across 33 boroughs and the City of London is a joke. The whole £100 million is 0.06% of the deficit so, so what? Our government will spend £167 billion more than it raises in taxes this year. We are truly, horribly screwed.

The Telegraph reckons that Darling has raised taxes by £19 billion. At the same time Darling talks about £11 billion of savings to be made in the next financial year to start in April. Only an analysis by the TaxPayers’ Alliance shows that more than half of this is “unspecified”.

We have just had yet another tax and spend budget from a government that refuses to acknowledge that it has blown the public finances. Although the deficit for this year year will apparently only be £167 billion rather than £178 billion we are in big trouble and Darling and Brown refuse to be honest about it. Darling admits that the next government will have to be harsher than Thatcher. Do you trust Brown/Darling to deliver the medicine? Still less Clegg/Cable?

5 replies on “Empty budget”

Why did the council give £50 to everybody in the Borough back in December if it meant that they’d have to allocate £689,700 from the contingency to pay for routine road maintenence?

Also, I’m not sure how the contingency funds work, but is this an example of Ealing Council spending more than it raises in taxes, just as you derided the Labour government for doing?



The council is not permitted by law to run a deficit. In fact we aim to keep a balance of £15 million in cash to hand (called the general fund balance) at the end of every financial year. The government deficit is the worst in the whole OECD. Even after four years of Labour “prudence” and improbable growth projections they are planning for it to be about as bad as it was when Denis Healy had to go to the IMF for a bail out in the late 70s. The government are truly mendacious on this.

We are not mind readers so could not predict what would happen in January. That is why we have a contingency budget for things going wrong. The pot hole cash was only about 1/10 of what the cash back cost so is neither here nor there really! The way contingency works is you put aside a sum in case the unforeseen happens and you draw down in it when they occur. The figure last year was £3 million and it will be £3 million next. The pot hole money came from there because it was an unusually cold winter by recent standards.

The council is allowed to borrow but you will note we only spend borrowed money on real assets such as roads, buildings, etc (much as a householder does with a mortgage). We don’t use plastic to pay the bills the way Labour governments always end up doing. It is a shame that the Labour government did not submit to the same constraints it places on councils. We would all be much better off. As it is it looks like the proportion of tax going to debt finance in four years time is going to exceed the 10% which usually triggers downrating of government debt. Ooops. Brown really is a destroyer.


What intrigues me about prudent financial management claims made by the Council, is why that £15M was kept to just £15M.

Correct me if I am wrong (I know you relish those very rare opportunities!!) I think I read in the recent Council budget papers that this was the bare minimum figure.

I read generally that Councils will suffer badly when the big cuts come in. But our reserves are down to a level below which it would not be prudent to go.

What’s your take?


Having livid in South Ealing for a few years I was pleasantly surprised to find my abode within the new heritage quarter. Alas, this has not lived up to my expectations. The street lamps are nice, however the pavements are geeting worse. Temple Road and Aeradale Road are positively frightening, and in the recent frosts I slipped on the ice covering a patch of new tarmac that had been put in to replace existing (posh) paving stones in the pavment. Why are we getting all these patches of rather dangerous tarmac (cheap and tacky) in the pavement replacing our rater nice pavers. The trend seems to have started towards the Northfields end of our little block of South Ealing Roads and made its way over to the South Ealing Road. Why is this happening? I though the idea was to gentrify and improve the heritage quarter not put in the cheap sort of pavements that are more often the case in remote country roads where the tarmac pavements are rarely used and where the high traffic levels of Ealings city streets are not to be found. These new tar patches that spreading everywhere are cheap, tacky, and dangerous when frozen. To cut to the end of a long point, do you think any of this extra road money might go on stopping our South Ealing Heritage Quarter Pavements becomeing a dangerous ice rink skid pan on cheap temporary tarmac?




If you look closely you will find that two types of paving repairs are going on and if you look carefully you will see that many, many repairs have been made across the ward.

Firstly, around trees we are using tarmac where tree roots have pushed up paving stones and made them dangerous. Short of hacking away at the roots and damaging the trees it is not possible to replace the paving stones flat so tarmac is used. I sometimes question the extent of the tarmac but on the whole I feel this is a good compromise. We could cut down all our mature trees because we want flat, unchanging pavements or we need to accept that larger street trees are living things that will eventually damage pavements.

Secondly, if you look carefully you will see many hundreds of new paving stones have been inserted into old pavements to repair damaged stones.

As I noted on my blog here this new administration has allocated £25.5 million to roads and pavement renewal over the last four years compared to about £12 million under Labour over 12 years – twice as much in a third of the time. It is fair to say that this spending has been dominated by road rather than footpath renewal but we will get around to replacing pavements – in the meantime they are being maintained to a much higher standard than they were and the tarmac patches you are noticing Maxine are positive evidence of that maintenance. There is no general move to tarmac it is just a technique for accommodating our lovely trees.


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