Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Setting the Budget

Most years, councillors and officers are accustomed to say that this has been the most difficult budget-setting round that they have encountered.

No-one involved in local government country-wide will, however, have experienced a more challenging set of circumstances that the ones we face at present. A near perfect storm of the credit crunch, the economic downturn and reduced revenue streams means that 2010/11 will pose very serious questions for council finances - and matters aren't going to get any better in the next 3 - 5 years.

As you may have seen from yesterday's Echo, Darlington is taking the lead amongst North East authorities and publishing its budget proposals first. You can view the paper going to Cabinet on 12th January 2010 here.

Now it's time for the people of Darlington to have their say; the key proposals upon which the consultation is based is as follows;

Proposal One: Freeze Council Tax

The Cabinet is very much aware of the financial challenges many residents and businesses in Darlington are facing and, in light of this, proposes NOT to increase Council Tax this year.

Proposal 2: Balancing the budget

Due to the increasing gap in levels of future funding and the increasing demand in services, members of the Cabinet and officers have developed a number of key proposals to further reduce spending whilst maintaining effective services.

These include:

investing an additional £1.4 million in social care to pay for the increase in demand for services;
schools receiving a 3.1% increase in funding in line with an increase in Government grants;
driving efficiencies of £4.7 million across the Council and its services.

Proposal 3: Invest in Darlington

Whilst the Council must find savings, it is also important to invest in the Borough. These investments will be made using capital budgets which we compete with other local authorities to secure from Government.

Over the next four years, the Council proposes to invest £143 million through capital schemes, this includes £10 million on roads, £82 million on schools, £19million on regeneration.

You can email the Council directly with your views here, or go online to the forum here. Alternatively, you can attend the special Talking Together event to discuss the oproposals on Monday 25th January 2010, starting from 5.30pm, at the Dolphin Centre.

Draft council budgets have been consistently re-shaped in previous years as a result of input from residents and staff, so it's well-worth taking an active part in the consultation process. I'll keep you updated as progress develops.


james said...

A worst case scenario is that the Tories win the election and impose the kind of cuts on councils that they're implementing in councils they control.

In any case, properly regulated, bond financing would allow local authorities the capacity to privately-fund public projects ( Are there legal limits on the ability of LAs to finance projects act in this manner?

Paul Cain said...


These 4.7m quid efficiency savings: What are they?

If they can be saved now, why weren't they saved in the past?

james said...

"These 4.7m quid efficiency savings: What are they?"



Hope this helps, Paul

miketually said...

Phew! A 5% rise would have left me 17p a day out of pocket. Now, on what shall I spend this windfall?

ianw said...

No increase....anyone would think there is an election coming!

I agree with Paul if this year you can make savings why could you not last year?

However I equally agree that god help us if the Conservaticves win!

Who to vote for?

james said...

"if this year you can make savings why could you not last year"

Like any budget, there will be things which are no longer required or are no longer affordable given other priorities. But I'm a little conflicted over the council tax freeze. On the one hand, it would be unhelpful for the town if people have less to spend on other things because of a rise - but then again, if we are to have effective municipal services they have to be funded.

Balancing the books might seem to people to be attractive, but I worry about the "paradox of thrift" - where we expect that because in our own lives we must restrain spending, it is necessarily a good thing for governments to do. (Obviously national governments have greater access to finance than local government - unlike in the US, there is no municipal bond market in the UK.)

So, if for example the government nationally decides to reduce deficit spending at a time when the growth in private sector activity is weak, as the Tories have been proposing, then this can have damaging economic consequences for the long term.

The whole purpose of deficit spending has been to keep economic activity going - the scale is perhaps bigger than other countries because of the size of the financial services industry.

The Tories have indicated that, rather than attempting to reduce the deficit over a full term of parliament, they will go for immediate cuts. The Liberal leader has come out in favour of "savage" spending cuts.

Given that the public sector does not operate in a vacuum and public spending goes on purchasing goods and services from the private sector, removing stimulus measures - and even going beyond that to make large reductions in spending - will take demand out of the economy.

During WW2, the government made banks fund the war effort using "Treasury Deposit Receipts" - Ann Pettifor, an economic analyst who was warning of the debt-deflation crisis was back in 2003, suggests that the same mechanism could be used today to stop the economy sliding into depression.

Given that the government has considerable stakes in the banking sector, this should not be too controversial - indeed the Financial Times has called it an "intriguing alternative" for governments to consider.

I can't imagine a Tory government considering this, however...

Skint in Hurworth said...

In Hurworth we just GUESS, get our mates to agree and second our proposals, then get the Chair to use her casting vote...hey presto 42% increase dead easy, it's not much if you say it fast proving it's not what you know it's who you can get to support you and who cares about the "man in the street".

ianh said...

Skint in Hurworth probably already knows this, but two seats are up for grabs at Hurworth parish council, so he/she is in a position to change things in future.
However, he or she would have to put their name forward and not remain anonymous.

as for the precept increase, it was a close vote. Whilst i did not support this level of increase it is true to say that it amounts to less than 10p per week for the average council tax payer.
that i think puts things in perspective.

Skint in Hurworth said...

Ian H

Firstly I note you say per tax payer and hope all have realised that it is NOT per house.

Your comment may in some way justify it to those who voted for it but 42% is way way too high for today's troubled climate and is simply too much.

Fine break it down into anyway you like to make those who did this look less greedy, it will never detract from the fact it still was 42% no matter how you dress it up and shuffle it around!

I don't know which Cllr's vored for this I know a few who were against it and thanks for clarity on your position.

By your logic perhaps they should have made it 75% as that would ONLY be 16p per week per person.

To much from the Council who do too little, perhaps if they did less for the rich and more for the poor they would not need this increase or perhaps the grandiose Parish Plan that is so greatly revered should simply be forgoten until such financial times permit.

I will look forward to seeing the "Handy Mans" time sheets just to see what we are getting for this 42% rip off and indeed just who's mate gets the job!

Please please keep these dreamers away from the new school, I dread to think what ideas they will come up for it, perhaps adding bridge and golf to the ciriculum and an after school class on DIY for potential handy men :(

It's a joke a kipper in a dress is no less a Kipper and the people of Hurworth have at least 2 Kipper's, thanks for your input.

I still think the running of any Parish that needs a 42% increase should be handed back to the local Council!

Nick; can this be done a Parish going back into the Borough's control?

Darlington Councillor said...

Just on that last point, Skint - I think the short answer is "no" - unless a parish council folds and the services it provides then are vested in the local District/Unitary Council.

I would have hoped that we all could have worked together this year to keep Council Tax down as much as possible - but at the end of the day it is for each precepting body to make their own democratic decision.

ianw said...


Many will be please to hear I am now walking around Hurworth with a paper bag on my head for fear of being recognised in the street as one of those insane Parish precept setters(I know some would prefer plastic but they all come with warnings these days)it really is terrible what a few like minded pals can get pushed through with a bit of jerrymandering to suit themselves.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the precept meeting but just to assure your readers I did not in anyway vote or condone this 42% increase. However me being there would have in no way altered this preordained certainty.

I personally think it excessive and unreasonable in the present economical climate that those who did support it did on the strength of a Parish Plan that only got a few hundred reply's.

Common sense has gone out the fiscal window here in Hurworth but when the elections come around next year those who voted for this lunacy may find their seats filled by others and the only ones left are their usual pews at the local Church.

ianh said...

thank goodness normal business is resumed......

I did not support this precept rise BUT ianw is quite wrong when he says his view would not have altered anything had he been there.

Infact, had he been "able" to attend his vote would have stopped this rise as the vote was equally split going through on the chairs casting vote.Hardly "pre-ordained"! and the church comments unworthy.

As stated, i too was against this increase (even though it amounts to some 40p per month) but if you dont attend a meeting (for whatever reason) theres little point moaning later when the decisions dont go your way.

Think i best leave it at that!

42% too much said...

Perhaps if Hurworth Parish Council could stick to it's standing orders and hold it's meetings at the correct monthly session and time as prescribed, members would be able to attend and not miss them due to prior commitments or other issues.
Just who keeps altering the dates and why, as a resident I feel like Zebadee bouncing around from month to month?
A strong Chair would not allow this to happen that's why all Council's have standing orders!Maybe this is why some people did not turn up to defeat the unwaranted massive increase in the precept.

ianh said...

Another intersting anaonymous post.

Standing orders state that meeting will "normally" take place on the second Tuesday of the month.

This was not the case in January due to the deadline set by dbc for getting the precept figures back to them. This was agreed at the previous meeting and only one member did not come to the January meeting.

I dont recall another occasion when the we have not met on the second Tuesday.
If one meeting change makes our anonymous friend feel like Zebedee than perhaps he, or indeed she, is in need of a new spring......

Anonymous said...

hahahahah here we go again.....

more "outraged villagers...."
apparently one outraged parish councillor who does not see the contradiction of failing to attend two meetings where the precept was discussed yet now expects to be seen as the voice of the people regarding the precpet level set.

Under the name of IanW on this very blog "someone" accuses fellow parish Councillors of "jerrymandering" and fixing the vote on the precept before the meeting. Yet only one councillor with the same name failed to attend and his vote could/would have altered the outcome.
Could it be the same councllor who, rumour has it, beleives he only signed up to be a cllr for one 2 hour meeting a month, and only on the second Tuesday of that month?

That someone going under the name of Ian on the Townliar is now attacking other cllrs is simply hypocracy without compare.

Anonymous said...

i just think that there is one or two on the parish council that do any good and they dont get much of a chance to do that as it seems to me to be a like an old schools mate network and is all one sided
this goes a long way back its not just a new thing its about time there was a change of parish council at hurworth to stop this one sidedness

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that the first obligation of a councillor is to turn up at meetings. Not much point complaining about the outcome if you dont.

Anonymous said...

whats the point of turning up if you get out voted all the time by the same people

Anonymous said...

everyone is entitled to their view and should vote accordingly.
Its called democracy.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that if the Chair should stick to the "normal" standing orders members could attend the meetings they were elected to attend.

By all means cast the blame onto DBC for pushing for the figures early in January, perhaps they should have been decided in December then?

Anonymous says "i just think that there is one or two on the parish council that do any good and they dont get much of a chance to do that as it seems to me to be a like an old schools mate network and is all one sided this goes a long way back its not just a new thing its about time there was a change of parish council at hurworth to stop this one sidedness"

As for hypocracy, well lets see, secret plotting, anonymous emails, voting favoured by sheer numbers.

It's all happening in Hurworth!

Clearer Picture said...

The facts and the story can be followed real time on"petergate"

The events unfold..

One cllr was concerned about a post on here which mentioned among other things the crazy 42% increase in the Parish Precept, which this Cllr. duely reported to the Chair of the Parish...all fine and well upto now!

However it all hit the fan when instead of waiting for the chair to investigate the allegations made by this councillor and instead of awaiting the Chair seeking proper professional advice, this councillor then forwarded it to those "who he believed"[sic] the post was about (a total guess on his part) then by so doing bringing in two new Council members into the proceedings, one a proven anonymous emailer who the alleged poster had already caught redhanded and had an official and minuted appology from and the other a Councillor who was found guilty by the Standards Board of England and ordered to retrain,

The second councillor, then by mistake (the third time he has made such a monumental mistake one cost the Parish a Clerk and a large severance payment) sent the subsequent string of their plotting emails that they had been on with for 5 hours solid by now, to who they "suspected" the original poster to be, still with no proof.

The first Councillor the proven anonymous email sender then accused the suspected poster of racism, a claim he has still not yet shown any proof of despite repeated requests!

I know who's version I would be believing especailly when all the proof is there for all to see at

Read it for yourself, make your own minds up! from one persons freedom of speech to the backstabbing and plotting for someones removal from the Council ALL BY the proposer and seconder of the 42% precept rise! I ask you!Who would you believe?

You read it and tell me there is nothing rotten in the state of Hurworth.

Just what happened to innocent till proven guilty in Hurworth. It seems to me that the two that HAVE been proven Guilty by reconised bodies are the two who need their status on the Council challenging!

They even go onto say this 42% precept article brings Hurworth PC into disrepute...don't make me laugh the PC did that themselves the very second they went against public opinion a while back and built a £9K fence for just one resident and have continued to spiral downward rapidly in the publics opinion ever since.

Not even a £5000 handy man can dig them out of the undesputed facts of this scandal.