Thursday, February 25, 2010
The Twilight Zone
Full Council this evening, to finally put the Council's budget for 2010-11 to bed. I got such a strong sense of deja vu from the very familiar and tiresome poses struck by the opposition that I thought I was entering (nee-nee nee-nee, nee-nee nee-nee) The Twilight Zone.
The Labour Group had worked hard in preceding months to try and square important circles - recognising that residents needed relief from a DBC Council Tax rise this year in the teeth of a dreadful global recession whilst at the same time protecting front-line services. And whilst some employees were understandably unhappy with some of the efficiencies which potentially impact upon pay and conditions (although I believe negotiations continue), the Cabinet did all it could to minimise job losses.
Not everything was right first time, and we were correct to listen to representations and row back on several proposals for some fresh thinking.
So what does an opposition do? If I've learnt anything about their tactics over the years, the main objective seems to be to rubbish the achievements of the ruling group whilst saying nothing (or next-to-nothing) about what they would have done if in power. And I can see the sense of this approach - why court unnecessary unpopularity? Better to say nothing - or very little - and hope the controlling group attract all the (negative) attention.
And so it proved this evening. There were thoughtful contributions, I thought, from my blogging colleague Mike Barker (even if I completely disagreed with his analysis) and from Tory Alan Coultas. Otherwise, it was very thin stuff indeed.
The point I tried to make (before being very courteously ruled out of order by the Mayor Jim Ruck) was that however much the Tories may pretend to the contrary, they do have an agenda, and it's being followed by Conservative Councils up and down the country. It's a theme I'll return to again here. There are lines in the sand between Labour, striving to protect front-line services and facilities for all, and the slash-and-burn approach adopted initially in London Boroughs by the Conservatives, but increasingly outside it too. And residents deserve to know about it.
And so a rather bad-tempered Budget Round ended for another year. Expect the temperature to be even more fraught in 12-months time, as the local elections loom.