The budget rightly continues to dominate Council business and will do so even after Budget Council on March 8th as a number of budget consultations will still be under way. One of the things that often comes up in consultation meetings, mainly from the far " left " is the suggestion that the Council should stand up to the Coalition Government and refuse to make their cuts. An attractive idea maybe to somebody shouting from the back of a meeting, but not one that bears much scrutiny. Implementation of this idea would require the Council to set a budget where expenditure exceeded income, i.e., one that didn't balance, one that was illegal.
If we could do that, which we can't, the consequences would be dire. We wouldn't be able to collect any Council Tax or business rates, wouldn't be able to borrow any money, wouldn't be able to spend any money. What would happen is that very rapidly all Council services would grind to a halt and no Council employees would get paid. Far from saving services, it would destroy them.
That of course wouldn't happen in practice because there are Council officers with a legal duty to intervene and central government can put people in to oversee the Council. Cuts would still be made, but not in a locally determined democratic framework and not according to local priorities. But that won't happen either, because the Council as the elected body for the City will not shirk its responsibilities however difficult they may be.
Talking of Scrutiny, the week started with the Council's Finance Scrutiny looking at the proposed budget and proposed amendments to it. Most of the time was spent on the opposition's budget amendment and the most illuminating questions and answers were to and from Council officers. the meeting went a long time so I'm only going to take a couple of examples.The City Treasurer described a proposed increase in Council Tax collection rate as " unrealistic " in the light of the Coalition government's scrapping of Council Tax benefit. The Director of Galleries, who has a well earned reputation for being innovative and entrepreneurial, described the existing �30,000 target for income as demanding and a suggested �250,000 figure for income from an art loan scheme as completely unachievable. just one other excerpt, a proposal to raid public health money for a mass swimming participation programme without spending any of the money on a mass swimming participation programme. I think the Department of Health might notice.