Friday, 8 January 2010

Happy New Year to one and all

The break is over and I am back at the “day job” at County Hall.

The first week of January saw (as much as the snow allowed) a series of scrutiny meetings to assess the administration’s draft budget. I could not get in everyday, but did manage to attend two of the scrutiny meetings.

As a back-bencher, I have been quite critical of the budget-setting process so far. We have had to sit through a number of briefings where we were asked to identify our “priorities” while not being presented with the necessary background or financial information on which to base a meaningful discussion.

There was more information available for the scrutiny meetings, but still not enough. There was question after question about what was planned and a lack of clarity as to how "savings" might be made. I raised concerns that there was an expectation that certain parts of the budget would experience a reduction in expenditure of 7-10% for each of the next four years. When I asked how and where the savings were expected to come from, the most frequent response was that this was still being worked out.

As a representative of the China Clay Area, I queried why there was still capital expenditure identified for the construction of the incinerator – but not for the potential termination of the waste contract. I was told that this was because the decision whether to terminate or not had yet to be taken. Strange that, as the possibility of fortnightly waste collections was noted even though the decision on that had not been made either.

I also made representations on the issue of community grants to ensure local groups could still get decent levels of financial support, I spoke against unfair increases in council charges and in a range of other areas. More updates soon.

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