Saturday, December 25, 2010

Good Idea but the numbers just don't add up.

The Liberal Democrats put forward a motion to the District Council at 15th December 2010 trying to stop cuts to the voluntary sector proposed in 2012/13 and 2013/14. But what is this about?
It looks as though the Conservatives are going to cut back on grants to certain voluntary organisations. This will not leave much in the budget for these local organisations to bid for. Many, which are wedded to District Council funding will have to find money elsewhere or close. The largest recipient if the CAB. 

I will start back to front and look firstly at the organisations the Liberal Democrats are trying to save.

The grants made by HDC to the voluntary sector this year are as follows:

Citizens Advice Bureau: £183,250 - This is a registered charity. For better or for worse the CAB is relying mainly on HDC for funding.
Hunts Forum for Voluntary Organisations: £41,200 - This is a registered charity. This charity seems to exist to train other charities into being effective organisations. It also runs the Maple Centre in Huntingdon.

Volunteer Bureau: £37,140 - This is a registered charity. The main purpose is to find volunteers and match them to opportunities for volunteers.

Shopmobility: £37,140 - This is a registered charity. This lend out mobility scooters to people from Huntingdon and surrounding areas to shop in Huntingdon. Excuse me! Why is the District Council paying towards this in the first place. Shouldn't the retailers, banks and other service providers chip in for this service rather than rely on the Council taxpayer to fund!

Bedford Pilgrims Housing Association: £27,140 - This is a housing association which made £4.9 million last year. So HDC is contributing £27,140 a year until March 2011 so the BHPA can boast it is "building communities".
St. Barnabas Learning Centre: £26,370 - Not a registered charity but a company limited by guarantee. Companies House info. seems to do much of its work in Huntingdon.

Disability Information Service: £7,070

'Natural High': £4,000

This is what the Liberal Democrats are defending.

How were they proposing to make up the shortfall of £309,000? By:

(i) increasing Council Tax annually from April 2012 by 3.5% or 4.5%;
Council tax is already predicted to rise by 2.5%. An additional 1% is £75,000. An additional 2% is £150,000.

(ii) pursuing shared services with other district councils with greater determination and in particular by unifying the collection of council tax across the district councils in Cambridgeshire;
Unknown whether this will mean savings in the short term.

(iii) making more aggressive savings in the expenditure on Pathfinder House by taking elements out of use quickly as staff numbers fall and by seeking to sub-let as early as possible;
Sub-let to whom? Is there a massive number of companies who want to relocate to Pathfinder House? I don't think so.

(iv) freezing Members' allowances for the next four years;
Not much savings there.

(v) reducing the size of the Council from 52 to 35 members, reducing the size of Cabinet to 7, reducing the number of Scrutiny Panels from 3 to 1 with concomitant savings on administration, postage, printing and stationery;
Good ideas. The cutting of the Council would need a total re-warding of the District. With the Cabinet, why stop at 7. This should be cut to 5. The useless scrutiny committees should be cut to 1. Minimal short term savings.

(vi) starting to investigate now the possibility of transferring the leisure centres to trust status;
But this is a medium term saving and needs funding to complete. One Leisure looks to try to stop this transfer. Earlier could do well. 

(vii) considering saving on redundancy costs by offering groups of staff the option of reduced hours (whilst maintaining pension contributions at their previous level); and
The Local Government Pension Scheme doesn't run on pension contributions. It was a final salary scheme which depended on the salary and not contributions.

(viii) reconsidering the other savings proposed by the Liberal Democrat Group last year and earlier this year.'
The proposals the Liberal Democrats made were trashed by the Council Officers.

Whatever I feel the Liberal Democrats need to resolve is the issue of savings still needing to be made.
There is a need to deal with these unidentified spending adjustments. This money still has to be saved.

In conclusion, the Liberal Democrats need to look at the unidentified spending adjustments. This is still money that has either to be cut or gained. Without a viable plan to find an extra £3.5 million by 2014/15 any savings the Liberal Democrats put forward are illusionary. Whilst it is easy to criticise the Liberal Democrats, it is the Conservatives who have made this mess and it is they who should be bringing forward plans to inform the public where all these cuts are going to fall. 

No comments: