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Labour's Shadow Council Budget fails to set out a viable alternative
28/02/2011 19:47:00

According to their website, the Labour Group is proposing an alternative budget at tonight's budget-setting Council meeting.

When I was on the Council, I regularly criticised them for refusing to set out an alternative so it is only fair that I should start by congratulating them for attempting to do so tonight.

However, having studied the document in detail I have to say that their proposals don't constitute a viable alternative to the Conservative administration's strategy.

They propose slightly smaller cuts to a number of services and say they would fund this extra spending in three ways.

First they would cut councillors' allowances. It is not entirely clear how this would save the money they say it would since most of the cuts are to increases that the administration have said they are not taking. It is also worth remembering that the last time they ran the Council, Labour significantly increased councillors' pay.

Second, they would get rid of the Council's publication Your Croydon altogether, rather than cutting its frequency as the administration proposes. This would save a bit of money, though I have to say my experience is that at the moment on issues like the proposed changes to parking restrictions the Council doesn't do enough to tell people what it's up to, rather than doing too much.

But by far their most significant proposal in terms of where the money's coming from is to take money from the Council's general reserves, which are only just above the recommended minimum level. This isn't a viable alternative strategy - it simply puts the problem off for a year. In twelve months time, the Council wouldn't be able to take any more money from reserves and it would then either have to make the deferred cuts or increase Council Tax.

It was partly as a result of running down reserves that the Labour Council in 2003-4 ended up having to put Council Tax up by 27% in a single year. It's disappointing that Labour haven't learned from the mistakes they made the last time they ran the Council. Until they have, it would be very dangerous to re-elect them.

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