Manchester City Council

Keeping it Real

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.

There are 3 responses to “ Keeping it Real”

  1. Time to go Says:

    So ultimately we seemingly have no choice,no alternatives and no defence.The Tory "re balancing" of the economy continues unabated and unapposed.Reminds me of that line in the old poem.."Then they came for me......and there was no one left to speak for me."Forgive me for altering the historical context,but I'm sure you take my point.

  2. Interested Manc Says:

    No-one wants to cut services and the responsibility lies firmly with a government who have no affection for the North generally and the big cities specifically. At best, the discrepancies in the national settlements can be seen as unjust; at worse they are cynical and vengeful with the greatest pain focussed at the places where there are least votes to lose.

    I'm angry at the predicament but not at my Council; having said that, I respect the anger felt by all who are already feeling the pain in threatened service loss- the bottom line is, it will come to affect us all.

    The question is, what do we do about it? I don't see the solution as being setting an illegal and unbalanced budget; that would simply result in the swift removal of the elected representatives of the city, who will at least try to deliver a budget that inflicts the least possible pain. This is a very different approach than the likes of Eric Pickles would impose if democratic representation was removed from us.

    I see the resistance coming from local communities and from active protest. The opposition to the poll tax wasn't instigated by local councils falling on their swords and refusing to set up the processes, it came from the active expression of anger across whole swathes of the population and was far more powerful because of that. When ordinary citizens actively and angrily oppose every cut in services and are visible in their dissent, Mr Pickles and David Cameron cannot claim that local politicians are manipulating the agenda for their own purposes.

    Overall, I have sympathy for Council representatives, both elected members and officers, who are having to introduce measures that cruelly deconstruct good and altruistic social provision that they have lobbied for and built over decades. The voices of dissent that will be most effective, however, are not those of the politicians, but of the ordinary citizens whose lives are being blighted to satisfy the social experimentation of a small group of rich boys far removed from the realities of living in a city that has tried to pull itself up by its boot straps since the last vengeful, ideological attack.

    I intend to be vocal and active, but I'll focus my attention on those responsible and capable of backing down if pressured enough- they reside in Whitehall. Having said that, one of the chief offenders lives locally... anyone fancy a day out in Knutsford?

  3. RTS Says:

    Interested Manc you speak a lot of sense!!

 

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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