City council budget balls (3)

Well, well, well. What’s this in yesterday’s letter to Chancellor Darling from the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, explaining why this month’s inflation figure of 4.1% is above the government’s target rate of 2%?

It is likely that overall CPI inflation will return to target in the first half of 2009 and then move materially below it later in the year. It is possible that I will not need to write a further open letter to you in three months time. Indeed, given the short term outlook for inflation, it is quite possible that I will next need to write to you to explain why inflation has deviated by more than one percentage point below the target during 2009.

So the Bank of England says it’s likely that inflation will be 2% by March and may fall to 1% later in the year.

Why then – as The Blogger’s already been asking – is Labour boss Helen Holland proposing a council tax rise of 3.5% supposedly in line with inflation next March? Does she know something Mervyn doesn’t?

Unlikely. Although she has got the audacity to claim: “[this budget] is helping people who are going through hard times themselves by keeping the council tax increase down.”

Yes. Helen’s’s keeping it down by putting it up!

Elsewhere, through the Council House looking glass, the sheer negligence of Holland’s shitty little management regime is perfectly illustrated by an unattributed briefing to the BBC claiming that the council “is facing pressures no one predicted”.

Er, hello? Why over the last 18 months has no one at the council bothered to figure out what might be happening to our faltering economy?

Don’t we pay finance boss, Carew Reynell, a handsome six-figure salary to do this kind of thing? And don’t we pay a Chief Executive even more? In fact isn’t there supposed to be £1million a year’s worth of top management talent running the show?

And what do we get for that?An anonymous briefing claiming they can’t be expected to predict the fucking obvious.

Well, here’s a few predictions for the gormless ones:

With unemployment, nationally, heading for 2 million by Christmas and redundancies now announced at South Bristol’s largest employer, Computershare, it’s pretty bloody clear what’s going to happen next year.

Large scale unemployment; large scale bankruptcies; large scale house repossessions. Council tax revenues will fall; all other council revenue streams will fall. Benefit, social service and housing costs to rise dramatically and that’s before we even begin to look at supporting bankrupted families to stay in their own homes.

This means we need action from the council. Not fucking marketing strategies. And it’s all actually very simple.

So simple there’s no real political argument between left and right about this, although there might be an argument between out-of-touch loonies at the Council House on six-figure salaries and everybody else with a functioning brain.

The fact is the city’s budget has to balance while tax rises are completely out of the question as they will only add to peoples’ misery while defying all macro-economic sense.

That means cuts. And deep ones. The Blogger expects something in the region of 5-10% across the board (in line with every other business in the country) with contingencies for more as reality takes hold next year.

And these cuts need to be designed, agreed and implemented now. Not randomly imposed willy-nilly in the middle of next year in the midst of a social, political and financial crisis “no one predicted”.

The choices are simple too. We can continue to maintain a luxury class of arts, cycling, equalities, sustainability, regeneration, walking, healthy eating and public relations officers at £30k, £40k, £50k, £60k a year, all of them blatantly and uselessly using up valuable public money directly at the expense of the unemployed, the old, the young and any other vulnerable person in this city likely to really suffer next year as the country’s, the city’s and the council’s finances fall apart. Or not.

We could be planning to do something about this right now. Why is this so difficult for the Labour Party – of all people – to see?

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21 Responses to City council budget balls (3)

  1. Gary Hopkins says:

    Council tax does hit unfairly hard on the low paid and should be replaced with local income tax which relates to peoples ability to pay and would be cheaper to collect.
    There is also a concern that Labour’s Bristol budget uses one off windfalls being used to ramp up long term revenue spending commitments.
    This stores up an even bigger problem for next year.
    It is the culture of the council that needs to change. When in last years budget Lib Dems put forward proposals for the thinning out of middle management by use of natural wastage Lab/Cons argued that it was impossible. It is not and must be consistently pursued .
    The actual level of council tax in Bristol is in fact not dramatically out of line with comparable councils but the quality of the basic services provided is massiovely worse.
    There are some shining examples where Bristol does well but the overall picture is very poor.
    For many years a defensive and self serving culture of cover up and secrecy has pervaded despite the many excellent officers who come in to work to do their best for the public.
    Radicle reforms are needed and they will need consistent effort over a period.

  2. Credit crunched says:

    They’re even madder in Keynsham / BANES (if it’s possible) where apparently the councillors have just all agreed to spend millions of pounds on fat lawyers’ fees to try to fight court cases over the doomed Bath Spa bungle:

    As in Bristol, bosses on massive salaries and clueless councillors are making decisions for the rest of the poor sods who have to pick up the bill

  3. ‘For many years a defensive and self serving culture of cover up and secrecy has pervaded despite the many excellent officers who come in to work to do their best for the public.
    Radicle reforms are needed and they will need consistent effort over a period.’

    I agree with this – my personal experience provides plenty of evidence of a defensive, self-serving and secretive council. A decent and detailed plan for reforms is needed. Presumeably various parties will lay out and debate plans in the run up to next yrs local elections??

    I do have some difficulty in picturing the political circumstances under which the necessary reforms can happen though. All too often we get political stalemate in the city as the outcome of elections!

  4. Gary Hopkins says:

    Do not worry Mr Vowles ,after the result in St George west the Lib Dems are very close to overall majority and will barring an unforseeable major electoral disaster be taking control with a very clear plan.
    I look forward to recieving your support.

  5. Charlie Bolton says:

    Gary said

    ‘the Lib Dems are very close to overall majority and will barring an unforseeable major electoral disaster be taking control with a very clear plan’

    A very clear plan? Please elucidate….

  6. BristolPatriot says:

    MMMMM A very clear plan,sounds wonderful.
    As long as it includes altering the bias constitution that those whom are self serving, defensive and active in the culture of secrecy are brought to book.I couldnt argue with that Mr Hopkins.
    As I read it the current constitution serves only to hold whichever executive is in office to heel to their[ officers ] internal interests which holds overall our Great city to to be far less than it would otherwise be.

  7. Amelium Celer says:

    Finally a councillor (and hopefully a council group) a) notices what goes on and b) wants to do something about it.

    There is tons could be done to make the place more efficient, absolutely tons.

    Only problem is Labour are leaving the lib dems a massive budget deficit for next time, so they can continue to cast them as the nasty party that cuts services, even though, with a view to the economy, that’s what Labour should be doing right now.

    I hope i’m wrong, but if i’m not, Labour are using our money to play politics for their own gain.

  8. BristolPatriot says:

    It looks like Libdem lead Newcastle council has the right idea during the recession.

    If the Libdems get proper control of our great city I would trust a similar objective is undertaken here.

  9. Ella says:

    I’m running a family of wooden planks in the next election. Half of them currently have bum disease but I’m hoping no one else will catch it. Please vote for them.

  10. Spectator says:

    Any chance that this clear plan could include a local bye law legalising the public hanging, drawing and quartering of Ormandroyd and Bishop? It wouldn’t cost much – in fact you could charge for tickets, and I reckon it would prove to be a revenue raiser. It would certainly cheer up a lot of pissed off Bristolians.

  11. Spectator says:

    Stop press. I’ve just heard on Radio 4 News about a local council who are threatening to take a jeweller to court for illegally disposing of commercial waste… the council refuse to believe him when he says that he doesn’t throw his gold shavings away, but recycles them into new jewellery… he reckons that it’s over £2,000 worth a year.

    That any local authority could believe that jewellers throw their scrap gold out with the rubbish would go some way to explaining the high levels of council tax!

  12. thebristolblogger says:

    There will be more news soon on The Blogger’s elect-a-plank campaign.

  13. steve meek says:

    Gary, I think the best and simplest way to deal with the culture of secrecy would be to stop one party cabinet rule – form a larger cabinet representing all 4 parties proportionately. I think your party supports PR doesn’t it? What do you think?
    That means information would have to be shared with all four parties, and consequently the public.
    It is hard to see otherwise how we can trust any party to run the city in an open manner when ‘information is power’.

  14. inks says:

    “Benefit, social service and housing costs to rise dramatically and that’s before we even begin to look at supporting bankrupted families to stay in their own homes.”

    With the exception of Social Services the majority of these costs will fall on central government budgets not local government.

    I might well be missing a lot of obvious points, but I wouldn’t anticipate a recession pushing up Social Services costs. The majority of their work is with long term economically inactive groups, people with learning disabilities for example. In the medium term a recession may make things easier for Social Services as they’ll be able to pay their frontline staff even less. Watch out for lots of services being tendered out to private companies employing desperate people on minimum wage.

    I’d have thought business rates income is going to take a hammering but have no idea how much this is.

    I remember the Walking Promotion Manager (or some similar title) being advertised a couple of years ago, about £35,000 a year from memory. I’ve gotta say the money would be better spent on housing advice.

  15. Gary Hopkins says:

    Most of the manifesto is still being scrutinised by our members but I can tell you that we will stop the incinerator and put a significant effort into resuming progress on waste reduction and recycling (rapid move to 50%)that was so rudely interupted. I am sure you will not make the mistake of voting Labour in again.
    We tried an all party cabinet a few years ago . The 2 Tories most strenuous contribution was posing for photo shoots and the Labour party spent most of their time trying to wreck things which they eventually achieved.
    Like it or not the present council is elected by first past the post. PR would produce a completely different style of politics and results.
    In terms of openness I completely agree. The present administration run one of the most secretive and paranoid administrations that even Bristol has seen. There will be changes.

  16. BristolPatriot says:

    Mr Hopkins. Gary.

    Lets not forget there are a great deal more concerns than paranoia and secretiveness.

    There is surpression,lies and deceit to name a few.

    If that isnt tackled also there wont be many changes.

  17. Amelium Celer says:

    Inks, sadly a recession may well push up social services costs. At the moment, a lot of the actual care needs in the city are covered by people covering things within their own families, and more power to them.

    Once those families start having income problems, it will start having real impacts on people who can’t fully support themselves.

    Cue the council needing to step in to pay for care which people were previously able to provide for family members independently.

  18. Gary Hopkins says:

    Bristol Patriot
    All part of the same culture. Much easier to get away with lies and deceit if opposition Cllrs and the public only have part of the facts.
    It is easy for incompertance to survive when people can’t see what is going on.

  19. Dona Qixota says:

    For those dear innocent souls who, despite all evidence, still try and dismiss any ideas of the rich and powerful ever consulting and acting together as some kind of “conspiracy theory”, take a look at this quote from Saint Marx which has been unearthed from the rotten ideological undergrowth:

    “Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalised and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to Communism.”

    – Karl Marx
    Das Kapital 1867.

    Sound like anything going on since 1997? It should do, what with NuLabour echelons filled by slow-burning revolutionary firebrands like Mandelson, Hain, Levy, Howells, and of course not forgetting one of the Millibands who seems to have been so busy reading Hegel at University that he had no time left to get laid. Whether that helped his job prospects, we can only guess. /2009/01/loneliness-of-long-distance-saver.html
    Times business online,
    Guido Fawkes,
    Cyberspace near you.

  20. Chris Hutt says:

    Dona, that Marx quote, delightfully prescient though it is, doesn’t really ring true for 1867. the working classes didn’t exactly have access to credit in those days, or even bank accounts for that matter. It seems to be Faux Marx rather than Karl Marx.

  21. Dona Qixota says:

    Chris, your insight is wholly correct here. Terrible confession, but I’ve not read Das Kapital yet. However, try this from:

    Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom, Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., New York, 1913, pp. 13-15

    “Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.

    They know that America is not a place of which it can be said, as it used to be, that a man may choose his own calling and pursue it just as far as his abilities enable him to pursue it; because to-day, if he enters certain fields, there are organizations which will use means against him that will prevent his building up a business which they do not want to have built up; organizations that will see to it that the ground is cut from under him and the markets shut against him. For if he begins to sell to certain retail dealers, to any retail dealers, the monopoly will refuse to sell to those dealers, and those dealers, afraid, will not buy the new man’s wares…

    I lay it very close to my own conscience as a public man whether we can any longer stand at our doors and welcome all newcomers upon those terms. American industry is not free, as once it was free; American enterprise is not free; the man with only a little capital is finding it harder to get into the field, more and more impossible to compete with the big fellow. Why? Because the laws of this country do not prevent the strong from crushing the weak. That is the reason, and because the strong have crushed the weak the strong dominate the industry and the economic life of this country. No man can deny that the lines of endeavor have more and more narrowed and stiffened; no man who knows anything about the development of industry in this country can have failed to observe that the larger kinds of credit are more and more difficult to obtain, unless you obtain them upon the terms of uniting your efforts with those who already control the industries of the country; and nobody can fail to observe that any man who tries to set himself up in competition with any process of manufacture which has been taken under the control of large combinations of capital will presently find himself either squeezed out or obliged to sell and allow himself to be absorbed.”

    Woodrow Wilson also said this in a 1912 speech:

    “A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their action be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom.”

    Plenty more here: /wiki/Money

    including this other one that I liked from the “Money as Debt” video. It’s from a banker, although unsourced it makes a good point about the crucial importance of the control of economic forces (o gods, someone will say that’s back to Marx again):

    “permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws”

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