Predictably, Bristol City Council are doing bugger-all for us as the credit crunch bites and talk of economic downturn turns to recession and even depression and we confront what’s looking like the worst economic situation since the Second World War.
For starters: is next year’s council budget released this week meant to be some sort of joke? Labour leader Helen Holland is proposing a 3.5% council tax rise to cover inflation.
Except inflation isn’t going to be 3.5% next year is it? The economy’s in a deflationary spiral. Inflation’s currently at 4.5%, having fallen from 5.2% in a month and this is set to continue. Very optimistic Bank of England inflation projections say it’s going to be 1% by 2010 although it’s likely to be less.
Then there’s the small issue of Helen Holland’s boss, Alistair Darling, recently cutting VAT to put more money in our pockets. Now Bristol City Council is going to grab it all back again. With a Council Tax rise averaging £50 a year, that’s our VAT savings on £2,000 worth of goods Holland, Ormondroyd and the rest of the useless gang are stealing from us.
And what’s all this extra money for? Nonsense like this:
£400,000 extra to market the city nationally and internationally to encourage more business investment and to provide residents with more information about local services.
Yes. They’re spending more bloody money on marketing and PR initiatives.
At any time this is a daft way for a council to spend money but promoting “business investment” in these economic conditions is absolutely barking. The only investors they’re likely to attract during a major global recession are corporate vultures buying cheap and in cash. This is basically a proposal to proactively sell off the city’s valuable assets to the lowest bidder.
Is this wise for the long term?
The man handed this huge, ill-defined £400k marketing slush fund to play around with and take trips abroad in the middle of a national economic emergency is none other than our brand new Deputy Chief Exec – that copper from Sheffield who doesn’t know where Easton is.
And out of interest, does anyone know why Bristol City Council has employed a copper to do marketing? Is this normal business practice or is this kind of utter lunacy only found in the the public sector?
Also, as part of next year’s budget process, our multi-million pound liability of a finance boss Carew Reynell has kindly produced a (very brief) briefing document – The recession – financial implications for BCC (pdf).
This insouciant, lightweight nonsense blandly observes – in the face of the economic blizzard surrounding us – that parking, land charge, social care and interest income might fall a bit over the next year and, er … that’s it!
Oddly Reynell forgets to mention anything about the £8m he lost investing in Icelandic banks this year and how that might affect us. Perhaps it slipped his mind?
However he does conclude his budgetary waffle with this:
The draft budget does not include specific provision for spending to mitigate the impact of the recession or for services that are likely to face increased demand
In other words the budget for next year doesn’t bother budgeting for the recession we’re going to be in next year. Jesus wept. It’s going to be fun in Bristol next year isn’t it?
Of course what Holland, Ormondroyd and that copper from Sheffield who doesn’t know where Easton is should be doing is implementing a slash and burn budget designed to cut council tax bills by between 5 and 10%.
Now’s the perfect time to cut out the dead wood. Dump the cycling officers, the sustainable development bureaucrats, the PRs, the glossy brochures, the equalities wonks and the rest of the expensive crap down at the Council House and put money in our pockets.
That’s what people who give a toss would do.