Saturday, 27 February 2010

Approaching the budget for 2010/11

This week the Community Group on the London Borough of Hounslow put out the following statement to various local news media:

Community Group seeks
"aspirational" budget next week

"THE Community Group on the London Borough of Hounslow wants to deliver an “aspirational” budget that combines low tax with opportunities for increased engagement with residents.

"This week the Leader of the Council Peter Thompson announced his intention of delivering a fourth consecutive Council Tax freeze for the year 2010/11. The Community Group, which runs the local authority in coalition with the Conservatives, expressed its delight at being able to present another low tax budget but called upon the administration to be 'bold and imaginative' in using available funds to strengthen local democracy and empower communities.

"Community Group Leader Phil Andrews commented: 'The Leader of the Council deserves a lot of credit for spearheading this administration’s successful efforts to produce a zero increase budget under such difficult circumstances, and it is to his credit that he has taken on board concerns about some of the proposals that were floated in December, and which following discussions have now been withdrawn.

“'We are proud to be associated with such an achievement and it is our hope that it will be accompanied by some bold and imaginative measures to direct resources towards empowering our community.

“'We want to see an aspirational budget that does something tangible to demonstrate our commitment to strengthening local democracy rather than just cutting tax. We are still discussing a few options and are likely to support the proposals if we can incorporate some of our objectives into the end product.'”

We mean everything we said in the statement. We have supported 0% budgets for the past three years and are happy to do so again. We recognise that, particularly in times of recession, even a small increase in Council Tax can penalise those on low incomes disproportionately.

But when all is said and done I personally do not find myself getting all excited about tax cuts. Some seem to derive an almost sexual relief from making savings and seeing a lower figure at the foot of a balance sheet. Such people have probably got a lot more money than I have, and it's not difficult to see why.

What I as a community advocate want to see is a budget that uses itself as a good excuse for rolling out the Community Empowerment agenda further. It needn't cost much, or even anything, to do but it sends our constituents - the people who elected us in preference to the politicians in the hope and expectation that we would effect positive change in our communities - the message that we are doing what we promised local people when they entrusted us with their votes. Without this aspect forming part of the budget proposals, I would be inclined to stay at home and watch telly.

The feeling I have is that our case is being heard. After all, at the end of the day those whose interest in the budget proposals begins and ends with a series of digits after a pound sign are unlikely to be fazed by a shopping list which doesn't involve shelling out a lot of money. Everything we bring to the process has a Buy One, Get One Free label affixed to it.

Monday's Group Meeting will be when we finally decide what we are going to do. But I am hoping my community gets a double result on Tuesday night - more say and less tax.


Anonymous said...

Onward ever onward
Fly high marvellous ICG
Wonderful councillors, the best Syon & Isleworth have ever had
Outstanding value for money and nothing dishonest about THEIR politics
Always on the side of the people, so loved by young & old borough-wide
Work for the community at the council, not for the council in the community
You've won our hearts and minds, we don't want anyone else now
Never stop what you're doing, nobody does it better !

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

Shucks, never thought I could ever get embarrassed.

Or were you being ironic? :o)