Manchester City Council

Invisibility

This year's tortuous budget setting process came to an end today when the 2014/5 revenue budget was agreed at today's budget Council. I won't go into detail here as all the papers are available on the Council's website and insomniacs can even watch the debatein full online as it unfolded. I was first elected to the Council in the mid-1980s so was there when we were ratecapped in 1988 and later when we had to deal with enormous cuts arising from the imposition of the Poll Tax and the nationalisation of business rates.

This, particularly on the back of four previous years of government imposed cuts, was the most difficult budget we have ever had to deal with. The impact of " austerity " on local government is that some Councils are talking about being unable to meet their statutory responsibilities within the next couple of years. We were rescued this year by the Airport dividend but still had to make some testing decisions.

Given the scale of the cuts it wouldn't have been surprising to have arrived at the Town Hall this morning to find it ringed by protestors. There were a dozen or so muted campaigners at the front door and then only three or four people in the public gallery. I will put this partly down to the budget process we have followed which has been honest, open and transparent, sharing with the public every stage of the decision making process from November til now, including twenty five separate Scrutiny meetings. Another factor is though, and Ipsos Mori opinion polling backs this is, that most people haven't noticed the cuts because most people aren't greatly affected.

In proportionate terms, most Council expenditure goes on a comparatively small number of people. Looked after children and children in need, adults with learning difficulties, adults with mental health problems, older people with care needs. As that's where most of the money is spent, even though these areas have had a smaller percentage share of cuts, ultimately its the only place most of the money can come from. Unless you are directly affected, despite our best attempts to be open and transparent, most of the cuts are almost invisible.

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

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