Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Slash & Burn

It was a solemn, downbeat meeting of Cabinet this afternoon. We were contemplating the cuts necxessary to balance the books - cuts imposed in-year by the ConDem Coalition, and which were of necessity deep and difficult.

Chairing the meeting, Deputy Leader Bill Dixon made sure that everyone who wanted to speak had their opportunity - they ranged from residents who would be affected by the ending of the Dial-a-Ride subsidy (one of whom was on oxygen) to staff representatives, who spoke passionately about the services delivered by hard-working council staff, and how low morale is now.

It is of no comfort that the same debates, the same impossible choices, will be rolling out in every council chamber across the country.

Still, no doubt everyone who was there to have their say would have been reassured by a report today by the respected National Institute of Economic and Social Research that the Emergency Budget, which directly led to today's Darlington Cabinet decisions, was born of "political theatre" rather than actual financial need. Apparently, our ConDem friends thought it was important to send the markets a message that we were not going to go the same way of Greece (not, as the report points out, that there was ever any real danger of that).

The report also points out that the decision to place so much of the burden of reducing the deficit on spending cuts (rather than tax raising) may be an error too. It will drag growth right back down - maybe as far as a fresh recession.

Still, at least we've all got to enjoy the political theatre of George Osborne's emergency budget, eh? Maybe our local Tories and their LibDem apologists could explain that to the lady on oxygen, the DBC staff losing their jobs - and everyone else whose lives will be blighted by the cuts to come.


ianh said...

Nick, cant help but agree with you.
Think the first sign is todays news that the cost of housing has dropped for the first time in ages.

It can logically be argued that this is a result of peoples concerns over their future security and prosperity.

On a professional basis it is clear that business confidence is on the wane again and the banks are still not lending.

Double dip here we come.

The tories ar simply using the liberals as fig leaf to cover their embarressment of cuts which are driven by political dogma.

Paul Cain said...

Just think, Councillor, if you and your party had shown one iota of economic responsibility - if you hadn't been a bunch of ideologues for the last 13 years, if you could have put the national interest first rather than buying hundreds of thousands of votes with public money - then this would be a moot argument.

There would be no need for cuts of any description.

Your attempts to shift the blame are disgusting and, frankly, cowardly.

You use vulnerable, sick people to make your point yet you refuse to acknowledge your party's role in bringing us to this decision.


Labour often treated the electorate as idiots when you were in power: And despite a decisive electoral rejection, it seems nothing has changed.

Anonymous said...

Well put Mr. Caine. There is something nausiating to see an obviously sick person being used by a political party who are to blame for the likely cuts to the services which she needs.

james said...

It was disappointing to hear Cllrs Scott and Barker insisting that debt reduction is the priority - as if cutting public expenditure is guaranteed to reduce borrowing.

Previous reductions in over-all levels of public expenditure have been associated with an *increase* in the national debt. And no wonder - the government is the spender of last resort. When private investment falls and a recession takes place, if the government acts too quickly to reduce the deficit that opens up between spending and expenditure, recovery will be stalled.

The coalition came about because Nick Clegg did a u-turn. Having agreed with Labour that the priority was securing the recovery and a balanced approach to deficit reduction - he suddenly changed his mind.

Everyone knows that the Tories want a leaner state, focused on securing the wealthy, not the welfare of all. But people are now very confused about where exactly the Lib-Dems stand.

Anonymous said...

anyone who watched how britian changed in 5 days, last night will have no doubt about how the Libs made a deal with the devil and are now paying the price with party disent.

Don't worry Nick soon the lady with the Oxygen won't need to be concerned as they will be having that off her at a hefty premium very soon.

It appeared to me from last nights program Clegg is nothing but another rich kid wanting his 5 minutes of power. The chinks in the Lib armour are starting to appear perhaps soon we will get another election as the coalition colapses like a house of cards, it only needs the first few to fall and they are already wobbling over some of Clegg's U turns with Cameron.

What will become of the Libs at any future election local or other wise? who can trust them anymore, I for one am sick of them always blaming a total change of manifesto or poicy as "a compromise" NO it's a sell out!

ianh said...

Last nights programme was very enlightening.
Clegg confirmed that he "changed his mind" about the need for early cuts some time before the election.

Therefore he subsequently lied to the electorate about his intentions.
Little short of electoral fraud.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

To move the debate on a bit. The Government have announced that if Council's want to increase Counncil Tax beyond the rate of inflation it must be the subject of a referendum. What do your readers think about this?

My views for what they are worth are at last we have a Government which recognises that council taxpayers do not have unlimited sums of money. The 131.77% Council Tax increase in Darlington or the additional payment of £781 on a Band D property since 1997 really hurt and could not be justified.

Personally I do not like council tax because it is unfair, the burden falls on those of low or medium incomes, it does not take into account people's ability to pay and may well be a disincentive to people striving to live a better life for themselves and their families.

I hope the Government can tackle this and come up with an alternative which is much fairer for everyone and allows people to retain more of their income. I would not be in favour of a system which was more expensive to the taxpaying public and also in the collection.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.

Correction. In the second line of the first paragraph above councils should not have had an apostrophy. Sorry.

ianh said...

I am not surpised you wish to "move the debate on" given that your leader knowingly misled the British people. He was still stating right up to the election that we should not be cutting early, yet he had already decided that he would do excactly that given the opportunity.


As for the council tax, offering a refendum to pay more tax(would this vote be for council tax payers only?) is an interesting thought, though i suspect more akin to asking Turkeys to vote for Christmas.

Surely we already have a referendum? At every local election!

By furthering this argument can we have a referendum on raising vat and any other tax or cut that was not stated at the time of the election?

From the tone of your latter paras it seems that you support the idea of a local income tax? not sure of how that would work. If locally administered surely it would be hugely expensive and indeed intrusive? if on a national basis it would not say much for conlib localist policies.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

Ian H. I didn't see the programme last night so I cannot comment on what was said in the programme.

You are right we do have a referendum at every local election, but they are held once every four years, but does it give the party which forms the majority in Council the legitimacy to increase council tax year after year?

There is a danger however that the party with the majority in council, as has happened, can increase council tax by using the whipping system without consulting the electorate or by consulting the electorate through consultation events, which not all the electorate are able to attend, and the the majority party then goes into the Council meeting claiming legitimacy for its actions and by whipping their councillors (not literally) is able to get the council tax rise through.

The referendum gives the whole electorate the power which they (we) should rightly have to hold councils to account. The electorate do pay council tax so they should all have a vote.

During the election all parties admitted that taxation would have to rise because of the financial situation. It was not until they were in Government that the dreadful state of the nations finances were fully revealed to them that they had to act and act fast which meant such taxes as VAT had to rise. I was uncomfortable about VAT rising, but I appreciate the reasons for doing so and it does not apply to children's clothing and food which are exempt.

I am not sure about how a local income tax would work either, but I feel there should be a debate on workable and fair alternatives to council tax which is acceptable by taxpayers. We don't want another poll tax fiasco.

Anonymous said...

Alan, please define 'childrens' cloth's' - all of my children under 11 are in adult sizes! So that's just rubbish! If your Tory leader says he does not like the idea of this suggested referendum you refer to... you'll soon change your tone, just like your friend mike barker did about the bsf money - let's face it just don't bother standing for election - you lot (lib-dems) u turn like a u bend on a toilet system only at least when you flush a toilet, you can be sure what you flush goes away! Look up... I'm pulling the chain on you lot already!

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.......

From the DirectGov website:

Zero rate

There are some goods on which you don't pay any VAT, like:

•most food items
•books, newspapers and magazines
•children's clothes
•some goods provided in special circumstances - for example, equipment for disabled people

Actually Anonymous the referendum is Government policy now.

As far as the election is concerned I'm standing. I have no intention of backing out and will respect the wishes of the electorate.

Anonymous said...

@ Alan

You said "During the election all parties admitted that taxation would have to rise because of the financial situation." absolute LIE.

Indeed the libs fought on a battle ground against VAT now your master Cameron deems it necessary you all have rolled over and it is now either down to lack of integrity or down right lies all I have heard from th eLibs since they cosied up to the Tory's is how bad labour was (no one is saying they were great)but to stand and then U turn on so many things you have let your voters down. People voted Lib for the very fact they did NOT WANT either Labour or Conservative as things turned out there was no clear majority but to "compromise" as you lot call it (we call it capitulate for power) to so many of the Tory plans is a unadulterated sell out of your voters.

I hope for one your party is now seen for what it is a small inefective bunch of liars, desperate for power yet have none and the sooner your house of cards comes crashing down around your ankles the better.

I agree with the earlier poster you need flushing away for good your once chance to do good has been flushed away by those at the top lying! Which in any domino effect means you at the bottom are not worth to have my vote anymore.

From Mike Barkers Blog.."I CAN support this budget"

""Yesterday's budget was necessary, tough but fair. I didn't join the SDP/Alliance/Lib Dems to cut the benefits of people who need them, or to increase regressive taxation. I didn't get into politics to impose a pay freeze on public sector workers."

So lets see...

Cutting benefits ...Check!

regressive taxation (vat) check!

Freeze on public secotr pay..Check!

Well Mike with 3 out of three I would say you have failed, even meatloaf said "two out of three aint bad" but three out of three is great, we could go for four out of three if we add BSF funding for all schools that were expecting it.

Back into the wilderness my Lib chums.

U Turns said...

To anonymous above, the Fibsters have 6 Councillors in (total) the Darlington area 2 of which are in Hurworth where BSF has been lost for a top school.

Just how are these two Councillor's going to survive out there come next years local elections when we have seen little if any protest from Mike Barker as PPC, my wife and myself will not be voting for either.

Elected people should work for those who elected them not what the party back at HQ tell them to do, they should be steered by a moral compass not a party orientated one.

Yes cuts are needed but some hurt much more than others and it seems the deepest cuts are the ones being over looked and dismissed as "we are all in this together" as Cameron likes to keep repeating.

Well I for one don't feel as if our familiy and those of my friends are in this "together" the same as the Cameron or Clegg millionaire households!

Anonymous said...

This blog site is rapidly turning into the Town Liar Mark 2 complete with a variety of exotic names. How on earth does the gentleman from Hurwort have time to think these names up?

Seriously though Councillor you really do need to moderate the site more carefully to prevent the postings which are clearly insulting and quite possibly defamatory. Serious debators and respectful posters are being put off.

ianw said...

Nice to see it appears I am getting the blame for everything and every post again and a free plug for the liar to boot, a win win comment from the wrong but anonymously brave last poster.

How ironic some people want the censorship of others at the expense of staying anonymous themselves!

The Wilted Rose said...

If Labour had not made such a complete pig's ear of the economy, then the Coalition would not have had to introduce such a Budget.

Can you imagine how bad it would be with another 5 years of Labour and Gordon Brown? No, Nick, you probably think that would have been wonderful.

5 more years of Labour? Explain how that would have played out to the lady on oxygen.

james said...

Wilted Rose, the idea that "it's all Labour's fault" doesn't stack up.

There was and is a major crisis in the global economy. UK banks had been gambling with savers money and would have lost it all if the government hadn't acted.

The Tories had no alternative course of action - just as they have no credible plan to reduce the deficit or boost employment. Before the election, they said that frontline services would not be affected - now they are rushing into cuts the like of which we have never known before.

The economic ignorance of the Lib-Dems backing the coaltion cuts is staggering. Mike Barker compared the UK to Greece - a country with much lower rates of tax payment and which does not have its own currency.

I would ask that people read the following article by Victoria Chick and Ann Pettifor, which summarises their findings on the relationship between public spending and public debt.

ianh said...

I concur in that we cannot have another poll tax debacle, but i am not sure how some sort of local income tax would work. It would have to be either centrally managed by the inland revenue or done locally, hugely expensive and burocratic (and not sure if i want the town hall to know all about my personal finances thanks very much!)

Referendums have a place, personally think they should be on single issues where a simple yes/no answer can be seen as legitimate (elected mayors for instance)
I dont see how this can be applied to revenue raising issues where lets face it no-one is ever going to deliberatly vote to pay more tax. Its just another cameron ploy to deliver tory dogma by hiding it under a sliver of apparent democracy.

Finally i do find it rather ironic that an anonymous poster should complain about anonymous posters...

I actually though this had been quite an interesting discussion to date.
Ianh...from Hurworth...

Anonymous said...

Todays rating for this week have Nick Clegg down -110 points from last week with Toy Story 3 up +159 points.

Many will wish it was actually Tory Story :(

A charming new film where the 2 main characters set of as likeable well to do chaps and as the msit of political time clears it rapidly turns out they are no more than diplomatic buffoons and lie telling cleglomaniacs.

Showing soon at all good Council Offices near you.