THE LEADER OF Thurrock Labour has continued to warn over Tory budget plans.
Cllr John Kent said
"The Conservative administration is now a quarter of the way through its first year in charge of Thurrock and Thurrock Council and we now have our first sight of their financial proposals for the way ahead.
The headlines are clear – despite delivering savings of over Â£90 million since 2010 government cuts to Thurrock’s grant funding mean another Â£21 million of savings must be found.
In many ways I’m pleased to see the Conservatives have taken many of the ideas my administration so successfully followed for six years and have simply tweaked, but in others I am disappointed and concerned that they’re fudging the issues we face.
What I do find telling is that after four years of former councillor Johnson’s non-stop financial mantra of zero-sum financing, zero-sum financing, much in the vein of Long John Silver’s bird parroting "pieces of eight" there’s not a sign of it here; that’s a very good thing by the way.
We councillors all knew there would be increasing pressures on council finances, especially around social care, both for children and adults. Some of us made no secret of the fact and my council and cabinet reports were totally up-front and honest about it.
Government cuts are targeting and hitting the most vulnerable people in our society; the poor, the disadvantages, the young and the old. The much-vaunted adult social care council tax precept did little but paper over a few cracks and that’s been fudged in this report.
But that’s no surprise, think back to last spring’s local election campaign and you will only find mention of these issues in our leaflets, speeches and releases.
Reading this report carefully brings up some interesting points. It highlights Thurrock Labour’s successful campaign of rescheduling the council’s debt, yet says interest rates are likely to rise.
Of course they will eventually – we were always ready for that – but what did actually happen last month? Interest rates fell even further! That’s not mentioned here … another fudge
The report also bangs on about the need to cut services, yet it is proposing to increase reserves by over a million pounds. You may remember one of the first statements from this administration was that reserves were already too high at Â£8 million. A U-turn already.
And one other point before I finish.
This report uses the phrase "Clean it, Cut it, Fill it" four times.
Once is enough, the good people of Thurrock are not stupid. Once is enough, we get the message.
I am pleased to see the Conservatives carrying on Gerard Rice’s Thurrock Labour policy of on increasing our efforts on cleaning and greening – although they refused to support additional funding for these services as recently as February’s budget setting – just as we are happy to see Oliver Gerrish’s Thurrock Labour efforts to target pot holes come to fruition as we had planned.
Finally, I would suggest that rather than "Clean it, Cut it, Fill it", this report suggests the Tory strap line should be Tweak it, Fudge it, Cut it.