Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Barnet Council budget - In the land of the blind.....

Tonight Barnet Council sets its budget.

How should a council set its budget? Well as far as I'm concerned it should work out what it legally has to do. It should then work out what it doesn't legally have to do but it feels morally obliged to do. It should add up how much all of these things cost, then work out if it thinks the electorate will wash some nice to haves. If I was a Conservative, you may think I'd have no "nice to haves" but in fact the Barnet Council budget is stuffed full of them. A limo & driver for the Mayor, political assistants for the two "main groups", allowance hikes for councillors. Then again, many things I consider things you should be morally obliged to provide have been chopped away. Budgets for staff looking after the disabled are a key point.

Now let us be fair. The leader of the council, much to the chaigrin of his more right wing colleagues, has raised wages to the London living wage. He clearly feels that is something he's morally obliged to do, but the UberRight disagree. In short, I think the budget is a dogs breakfast. The priorities have been driven by a need to deliver a "symbolic cut", worth 20p a week. As far as I am concerned, this is the wrong way around. Every item of spending should be challenged and every saving that doesn't negatively impact Barnet residents, especially the most vulnerable should be made. What should never happen is that we let an arbitrary number drive the decision. So that is why I think the Conservatives have got their budget wrong.

And what about Labour? In Barnet, they have simply accepted the Tories figure and juggled a few figures around. From an intellectual perspective this is lazy and from a moral one it is repugnant. I also believe it to be naive and politically inept. It will please no one. If you simply want tax cuts, you'll vote Tory and if you care about social justice, it isn't going to get you knocking on doors for Labour. To arrive at exactly the same figure is sheer stupidity. Why not make the tax cut 1p more than the Tories if you think it is the way to win? The Tories announced that the 20p a week tax cut was symbolic, so why not have even bigger bolics on your sym's? Of course the sensible thing to do is knock on every door in Barnet and explain why the cut is bad for Barnet, but that would involve hard work.

Then there are the Lib Dems. Yet again, Jack Cohen demonstrates that he is the only party leader who really gets it. Cllr Cohen has reversed the cut, abolished the political assistants and balanced the budget. Sadly the Tories will simply stick their fingers in their ears and shout La La La. The Lib Dems are under severe pressure form both the left and right in Childs Hill. I hope to God that Jack and the Lib Dems win another term. He is the only politician in Barnet Council with any credibility left after this latest debacle. It is said that in the Land of the Blind, the One Eye'd man is king. It looks to me that Jack Cohen is the only party leader in Barnet walking around with his eyes open to what is happening.

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