Before addressing some of the key features of this year's budget, time for a bit of knockabout, albeit with a very serious purpose.
As you may have seen in yesterday's Echo and fron his letter in today's edition, LibDem blogger, councillor and now PPC Mike Barker has attacked the Council for having to make savings in key areas owing to the overspend on Pedestrian Heart.
That's simply not true. Yes, the Pedestrian Heart scheme overan, but the cost was met out of the budget, not the revenue account, which is funded by a mixture of local Council Tax and government grant. The overspend meant that the Council simply had to take from the pot which finances capital projects - over the four year period that the Pedestrian Heart scheme ran, the extra cash amounted to no more than 1 - 2% of the entire capital budget. That puts it, I think, into perspective.
So there is no link between the revenue budget and this year's Council Tax, and the Pedestrian Heart scheme. Period. It makes me want to kick the imaginary cat, because deeply misleading comments like that serve only to bring the PH scheme into disrepute at a time when it's enjoying a lot of public plaudits. No doubt that was the intention.
Now, knowing Mike as I do, I'm prepared to believe that this is cock-up rather than conspiracy, and he simply isn't aware how capital projects are financed. It doesn't mitigate the fact that residents have been misled - I got an angry email this morning about the PH overspend and the revenue budget. Mike has to understand, that being a PPC means that he will be taken very seriously, and so there is extra reason for him to get his facts straight before he starts throwing mud.
I'm sure in the light of this Mike will want to send a letter to the Echo correcting his mistake and apologising for the confusion he's caused. I look forward to reading it with interest.