The budget moved by the labour party did not make financial sense and did not add up!

Firstly they wanted to rob Peter to pay Paul, taking money from reserves to prop up revenue spending with no plan of how to pay for these things in future years.

Secondly they admit in their budget amendment that their budget would create a “black hole” of £347,000 next year, again with no plans for how to deal with this.

And finally their budget proposals didn’t add up, because they have not factored into their budget the charges and taxes levied upon us by the Labour Government if we don’t change the towns waste contract. There will be Landfill taxes to pay, because of the higher amount of waste going to landfill as well as higher “gate fees” for taking the rubbish lorries back to the dumps and higher “tipping away fees” for each extra time we tip away the waste. Remember the new waste collection will get us closer to 50% recycling rates rather than the low 20%’s at the moment.

The Labour budget proposals were nothing more than political opportunism!

Yes we would all like to have given more money to HWRA and the grants budget, and that would have been much easier had the Labour government dealt with Harlow fairly.

We got a misely 0.5% increase in our government grant, whilst most councils got 4.2%. Had we got that amount we would have had an extra £322,000 to spend on advice and grants. Why was the government so unfair to Harlow?

The Liberal Democrats claim to be the opposition in Harlow, yet they were unable to put together a budget. They claim they don’t want to make cuts, they claim they don’t want to increase income, for example from parking charges, but they won’t be honest with the people of Harlow and tell us where they would find the savings from. Is pets corner and the playhouse top of their list to cut? I think they should have the guts to be honest with us.

What do you think?

In the interests of being fair I publish below the other parties budgets so you can see for yourself:

Labour Proposal

Liberal Proposal

Ok

So everyone will of course be talking about the negatives.

Let me tell you some of the many positives that we managed to get out of budget night, besides trying to put the Council’s budget back on track.

Here are some of the things that the budget included.

£250,000 to top up the insurance fund, money from which was used to balance council budgets, leaving the ammount in the pot dangerously low.

£50,000 a year for 5 years to top back up the restricted reserves that were raided last year, such as the Church Langley reserve.

Control of Ragwort, a nasty little plant which is such a danger to animals if allowed to spread on our common land. The council has never before had a budget for dealing with this.

Money for cleaning the skatepark at the weekends, which you have to think will be when it is most used and most in need of a clean.

A new Energy officer, to try and reduce not only the council’s energy bills but that of our housing stock – and to reduce our carbon footprint in accordance with the Nottingham Declaration. Importantly the sort of officer whose job saves the council and the tax payers money.

A new Sponsorship officer, to bring in sponsorship for events such as the Town Show and the Fireworks Extravaganza. Another officer who should reduce the burden on the taxpayer, by initially paying for themselves and hopefully generating income for the council.

A new budget each year for running repairs to Childrens Playgrounds, instead of waiting for a capital bid to replace whole pieces of equipement.

£17,500 a year to be spent on sorting out paving stones to make pavements safer.

And here are some things the budget didn’t include that you might not hear about:

There were no increases for councillors, whose allowances were forzen. Labour and Liberal members voted AGAINST this on Budget night.

£50,000 came out of the communications budget. Labour and Liberal members voted AGAINST this on Budget night.

£28,000 was saved by a basic review of software licences, and £22,000 was saved by having fewer telephone lines and cheaper call charges. Labour and Liberal members voted AGAINST this on Budget night.

Overall there are a number of good things that were in this difficult budget and residents are able to see that the promises we made at election time are being kept.

What do you do when you take over a council and find out that its finances (which have never been good at the best of times), are in the direst of straights….?

What do you do when planning your first budget, your first real mark on the town, to find that your administration has to come up with over £4 million from a £16 million budget in 6 months?

Quit? I have to be honest it went through our my mind. Run round screaming and shouting, yes I did a bit of that too.

Then my mind went to that recently rediscovered poster from WWII “keep calm and carry on”. So typically British and at it’s root so typically Conservative.

Ok we had a budget that because of misuse and abuse by previous Labour and Liberal led administrations was in dire need of fixing, we had a budget that because of government meddling and dishonesty from “flash” Gordon was deteriorating fast. But good conservative principles HAD to come to the fore.

And that’s what we have done, and that’s what our budget later in February will deliver. There will be tough decisions. Not everyone will be happy.

But I have a Choice…. I can either do what every other Council Leader has done for years, nibble round the edge of the budget and not really touch the problem, trying to push it away to be dealt with by someone else.

Or I can bite the bullet and put the council’s finances on a sound financial footing once and for all and give us a chance to start again. It’s not a pretty choice, and as a politician in a town with elections every year, I understand why previous leaders have not had the guts to deal with the problem. I have to. I love my town, and I want it to get better, so I have to give it it’s medicine.