Friday, September 22, 2023

Budget Cuts: The Human Cost

IT IS clear that the strong hand of vastly experienced troubleshooter Interim Chief Executive Bob Coomber is on show here.

YourThurrock will be interviewing Mr Coomber and Cllr Hague this evening (wed) before the council cabinet meeting to assess their take on the proposals.

Thurrock Council has, for many years been in need of some form of economic shock therapy if it is to survive as an economically viable unitary authority.

According to sources close to the council, many of the new staff brought in have been shocked at the antiquated practices and fiscal complacency that brought the council to this state.

YourThurrock reporters unlike any other news service are in the borough seven days a week. There are people in the council who, clearly do a magnificent job and there are also those, who we have to ask” What exactly is it that you do?”

Perhaps Bob has made the same observation.

Our concern is that they will remain untouched and it is those key services, that make all the difference between a stable, safe and functional Thurrock and one blighted by social and economic meltdown.

Time and time again at the Grays Youth Court, the work of the Youth and Connexions service is highlighted as a key route out of a life of crime for young people.

Has Bob Coomber, has Garry Hague, has Ben Maney ever sat there and seen this in action? The proposal to cut £137,000 in the budget could have huge ramifications.

The social consequences of the recession are starting to bit hard in Thurrock. Metal detectors in schools and Lakeside, teenage curfews in Tilbury and a virtual martial law during Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night.

At a time when the centre is in need of further resources to cope with the flood of young people neither in education, employment or training (NEETS) the council is considering making cuts which it admits may “have impacts on young people”

With the possible closure of centres for those with challenging behaviour and slashed budgets for the homeless, may will say that this is not a time to be vulnerable in Thurrock.

The cuts examine the Crisis Support and Intervention team, Looked-After provision. Nationally praised-centres such as Oaktree are also under threat.

But Mr Coomber has a job to do. The Audit Commission have been pleased with the councils progress so far and have moved their meetings from monthly to quarterly. As a civil servant Mr Coomber will have that Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) in the centre of his mind.

Economists will tell you that “shock therapy” is the only way to get a challenged economy out of a crisis. Sociologists will point to the broken mining communities and contradict them.

The next problem may be that this is only the first round of cuts and further cuts may strike deeper into the heart of the borough.

There is no doubt that the clouds on the horizon such as the cost of the Vertex contract and the fallout following the Price Waterhouse investigation into the “Three Schools” contract are issues from which Thurrock Council can run from but from which they cannot hide.


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