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Ealing and Northfield

The budget is out

The big local news today is the publication of the council’s budget proposals on their website. They include proposals for £28.6 million worth of savings and outline plans for an additional £20.9 million of further savings.

The council’s press release uses the “c” word (“cuts” obviously) but fails to mention that the council’s pledge to hold council tax at the same level for the third year running will be funded by central government, some £3 million a year for four years.

You can see the papers here. There is a lot of detail here which I will go into in more depth over the next few days before the cabinet meeting on 30th November where this will all be decided.

The most newsworthy change so far seems to be the re-organisation of the ranger service to the point of destruction, see here.

3 replies on “The budget is out”

Phil

It seems that the majority of the cuts will be achieved during the next year rather than spreading the cuts more evenly over the next three years. Why is this? Do we really want to see so many staff hit in just one year? As it is the Jobseeker claimants in just part of Ealing have increased in the last year by some 50% – up to some 4000 I was told.

How does invest to save actually work? For instance there are massive figures totalling £5791K against Adults services. Do I think this is something to do with Adult service charges going up? Which particular services will go and by how much will our charities be hammered?

How many of the dumber Councillors will understand these sheets? How many will like lambs just follow the whip?

If you have a budget for £100 pounds and then you propose cuts of say 20% what you do in presentational terms is that you show the existing budget, you then show the projected cut, you then show the revised budget figure, you then show how much the cut is in percentage terms. How is it that the brighter Councillors accept such poor presentational documentation from such a senior Finance Officers? Is this yet another failure in their department to demonstrate communication skills? Or does the £1133K against Finance and Audit represent a reduction of some over paid senior executives. Budget preparation is really such a menial task and does not need too many highly paid people to do such a job, even though it is complex (but not complicated) undertaking.

There is a saving for the Housing general fund of £388K. What does that mean?

Safer Communities has a reduction of £790K it seems. What risk assessment has been undertaken when the Commander is witnessing overall higher crime figures?

Will there be a public consultation regarding the disgraceful Park ranger apparent cuts?

The cynic in me queries whether some of these services will not go, but will end up being contacted out. Any comments please.

Do you think any services will be taken in house?

If we are saving £50M how much does that equate in pence per pound to the amount by which I would like to see my Council tax reduced. Why won’t we get a reduction? Shall we perchance also see a reduction in the long term borrowing of the Council which some bloke whose name I have forgotten around here, might have reduced with that £6M?

I hope you will be able to answer these questions (and no doubt in your inimitable fashion correct me where I have not understood) plus others which you say you will be considering. If partiality can be moderated that would be good even if faintly difficult. However I am glad that one of our Councillors is motivated to keep residents informed. Pity those of a different leaning are so pathetically weak that they cannot in some way do what you get up to. Bassam is the only one who just rarely pops up over the parapet.

There seem to be a rising tide of complaints that Council Officers run rings around Councillors. Perhaps some of the main directors should publish on the website a rolling 4 page sheet telling us what they want to do.

BTW apologies for a longer post, but generally you will agree that I have followed your advice.

George,

Thank you for your long comment. I won’t try to respond to all of it now.

You criticised the presentation of the material. I agree that it is a little hard to get used to but you have to accept that it has a purpose and is structured around achieving that purpose.

If you want to understand spending totals and other financial information go and have a look at the budget and statement of accounts.

http://www.ealing.gov.uk/services/council/budget_book/index.html
http://www.ealing.gov.uk/services/council/statement_of_accounts/

The reports that look at budget changes focus on the changes so are expressed in terms of “growth” or increases in expenditure and “savings” or decreases in expenditure. This allows decision makers, who are already familiar with the overall picture, to focus on the changes.

Thank you Phil

I could only accept the purpose of the presentation if it is aimed at decision makers inside the Council, which is what is happening. But why can’t Joe Public be allowed in these documents to get an angle on what is happening. For instance if we could see the percentage figures we could understand where the priorities are and form a view as to whether we agree with them. Why is that senior Council Officers think that they are holier than the Residents. A change in attitude has to take place.

What troubles me is how many Councillors understand all this stuff and how many are they therefore qualified sufficiently to make intelligent, informed assessments and constructive criticisms of the way the cuts will be decided upon. Some of them can’t even express themselves very articulately. Indeed does anyone know if they have all read and understood the two documents? I mean these people do normally cast the votes in committess, don’t they?

For instance you have recommended, not for the first time, that I read 300 pages of financial stuff. And not working in or for the Council how would I know what half of it means in terms of impact rather than mathematics?

What I did notice on a quick flip through was that quite a lot of people started to be paid more than £50K on your watch, I could have a rant about that but I am more interested in the extent to which the services are going to be hammered and where in greater detail.

I think only people like you thankfully can give us a summary of some of the answers and I hope you will do over the next few weeks. Great pity that the other parties are so pathetic as regards engaging with the residents. It gives you the chance even more to show just one side – but I suspect you enjoy that!!!

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