Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And they didn't discuss the budget!

So SNTC held a Special Council Meeting to discuss the two budget options. Our Town Councillors decided to defer this decision to a meeting on 6th January 2010. But why are they trying to get this budget passed so quickly? I don't know the answer to my question. SNTC doesn't have to pass the budget until late January 2010. There seems to me to be much confusion over amongst our Town Councillors over their budget process.

The Town Council also voted to defer the decision over providing a free car park for St Mary's Church, Eaton Socon. Apart from a decision to appoint a set of internal auditors, the Town Councillors decided not to take on the Public Toilets. The Conservative Group voted for taking on the toilets.
As for the Council Meeting itself, in my opinion SNTC is running the wrong system. I have advocated, somewhere on the St Neots Community Forum, the Town Council changes the system to a properly delegated committee system. This has the advantage that the vast majority of decisions are taken at Committee level leaving Council Meetings as being rubber stamp meetings.

To me the Town Council seems to be modelled on Dibley Parish Council. This is where all decisions are taken at the Council Meeting. This model works well in a small village. In a large town this system doesn't work.

The budget process should be simple. It should be:

  1. Officers produce a budget.
  2. Officers and the ruling group leaders/committee chairmen discuss the budget and make changes.
  3. The ruling group discuss the budget
  4. The revised budget goes to the Leisure Committee and is issued to all Councillors.
  5. The Opposition leadership is briefed by officers about the budget.
  6. The budget is discussed at the Leisure Committee and an approved budget is sent to the Policy and Resources Committee.
  7. The P and R Committee discusses the budget and approves the budget totals. This Committee makes a recommendation to Council on the Precept only.
  8. The Council therefore has only to approve the Precept. That should take no more than 10 minutes.

At the last Policy and Resources meeting held on 18/11/09  the four Liberal Democrat Councillors that attended (the Conservatives felt it was that important they didn't attend) spent 3 hours and 30 minutes discussing a budget. Why?

The budget is a reflection of the policy decisions already taken and forthcoming policy decisions. Unless Councillors are going to change policies and cut staff there isn't much they can do the effect massive changes in the budget.

I said this was Council was being "Simply Complicated". After attending this meeting I stand by what I said. This Council seems dedicated to making the simple decisions thoroughly complicated.

No comments: