Seconding the Alternative Budget.
The overarching theme of the Alternative Budget presented by Labour is Empowering Communities.
The principles embodied in our alternative budget, the test we have set for ourselves is it fair, is it just, is it effective, will we get the desired outcomes? The answer on every count is yes.
First. Paying for what we need.
We will put up council tax by £5. This year and every year. This is tax increase for all of us not just those who are very poor and will represent a modest increase of 10p a week. Everyone knows we get what we pay for. If we don’t pay in line with inflation and rising prices the value of our funds go down. Its simple maths. It is prudent to maintain a growing base budget. We have been the victims of years of a stagnating base. This is leading to a gap in funding looming on the horizon, in 2012/21, of 7.5 million. A more realistic approach to the budget and our own money raising powers over the last term and this could have been mitigated by £2.5 million. As government grants taper to nothing we need to use our own fundraising powers. This proposal is commonsense.
Reducing the Councillor Community Fund
This is about being strategic with our money and putting it where it can be most effective. A disproportionate amount at present goes to the most advantaged areas. If we are to keep this fund- at whatever level, it needs to be allocated in a more proportionate way. The Labour Group agrees with the review that took place last term and think we need to drop the amount to £1500, subject to further review.
Keeping our Communities Safe
Improving enforcement whether through licensing or private sector housing is a must. We have a duty to keep the people of our town safe. If we have rules we have to apply them. If people break the rules, whether they are licensed premises selling alcohol to minors or to drunks or outside licensing hours, or landlords renting sub- standard accommodation or taking cash for bed spaces, or whether we are addressing the even more serious offenses of people trafficking and child sexual exploitation, we need enforcement. We need more enforcement capacity than we currently have.
We do not want to be the next Rotherham or Rochdale. We need more enforcement.
Helping the people to help themselves
We have said before, and we will say it until it’s done, that communities, particularly disadvantaged communities, need more support. Our communities are very lucky that whatever the level of disadvantage we also have individuals and groups willing to run residents and tenants associations, to do Neighbourhood Watch Schemes, to report litter and fly-tipping, to keep an eye on neighbours and neighbourhoods. We know that Neighbourhood coordinators bring in more money and more resources and help network and join things up. It is an efficient, cost effective way to help communities help themselves. It is foolish and short sighted not to have Neighbourhood Coordinators who coordinate Local Area Committees and lever in funding for local improvements.
A Dementia Friendly Town
This is an idea we stole from somewhere else, another LA. Unashamedly. We need to do more to support our aging population and our growing community of dementia sufferers. To do that we need to offer more support to retailers, the hospitality industry and service providers so they are aware of what can be done to help keep people at home and in the community.
This speaks for itself. Let’s do a pilot. Let’s do it in the leaders ward. If successful let’s roll it out. It will cost a modest capital sum and save much more money. It will save having three wagons coming round those streets to pick up recycling. It will save money on litter pickers following the wagons round. It will save us have to send out caged lorries to pick up the waste blown around from un-lidded boxes. It will save a lot of bad tempers and ill feeling towards the council. It will give us back a town we can be proud of.
Our pest control budget was abolished in December 2015 without any by your leave. This is folly. Pests do not belong to an individual or family. They are a general nuisance and effect the general public health and well-being. Some organisations rightly take their own responsibility for pest control –large businesses, NPH, large Private sector Landlords. However, there are small businesses and disadvantaged families that cannot either help themselves or call on someone else to help them. We need a fund to support the most disadvantaged maintain a pest free environment. Officers will be charged with using these funds to do just that.