Hull City Council is storing up problems for the future

June 20, 2011 12:30 PM

Earlier this year, the Labour group on Hull City Council asked officers to look at their proposed budget. This was done, and officers signed-off the proposals, saying the books balanced.

As I have previously reported, Labour won a surprise victory and took control of the council. Last Thursday, it passed its emergency budget, but as I predicted on election night, the budget is nothing more than a fantasy. It is based on saving money on redundancy costs. The argument goes, if you don't make people redundant you don't have to  pay them off.  Anyone can see that although you may save money on redundancy costs this year, you will still have those employees salaries to pay next year. Well it seems as if the new leader and his colleagues are going to worry about next year when next year arrives.

One of the new spending decisions is to reduce the cost of primary school meals by 50p a day. This will cost £500K to implement. Hardly protecting front-line services, but working towards an existing pledge of providing free school meals to all primary school children in the city. As far as I'm concerned, it is not my responsibility to feed all of the primary school children of Hull. There are many families who already receive free school meals due to their current financial circumstances, but what about those people who can easily afford it? They should be paying for it themselves, but this argument doesn't resonate with the new ruling administration.

It looks like there will be a £6 million black hole in the budget next year that will need to be plugged. How do they plan to do it? My guess is they will rely on two things. Firstly, the government has promised to reward councils again for not increasing council tax. This could get the council through 2012/13, but will of course be storing up problems for the future. A source told me the administration is hoping it can limp through until the time of the next general election, hoping that a new government will give it a generous settlement. It is also likely to increase charges through the back door. Look out for increased parking charges, burial charges, planning application fees. You name it, the council will increase the charges for it.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Is this the leader of Hull City Council? "][/caption]

Instead of responsible local government, and making tough decisions, the administration is burying its head in the sand, hoping for jam tomorrow. It should be looking to provide the best front-line services, for the best possible price. It could look at cooperating with neighbouring East Riding Council. Both councils could merge some back-office functions. Although it has taken on my my suggestion to seek more private sponsorship for the city's Freedom Festival next year, it can expand this policy, engaging the private sector more. There are always savings to me made. Some are big; some are small, but they are there, and they require the political will.

Spending half a million pounds to reduce the cost of meals for all primary schoolchildren is a waste of money. Pretending you are really saving money by not going through with the planned voluntary redundancies is putting your head in the sand. The new leader, Cllr Steve Brady, needs to face reality and stop being an ostrich. Pretending the problem doesn't exist won't make it go away.

 Earlier this year, the Labour group on Hull City Council asked officers to look at their proposed budget. This was done, and officers signed-off the proposals, saying the books balanced.

As I have previously reported, Labour won a surprise victory and took control of the council. Last Thursday, it passed its emergency budget, but as I predicted on election night, the budget is nothing more than a fantasy. It is based on saving money on redundancy costs. The argument goes, if you don't make people redundant you don't have to  pay them off.  Anyone can see that although you may save money on redundancy costs this year, you will still have those employees salaries to pay next year. Well it seems as if the new leader and his colleagues are going to worry about next year when next year arrives.

One of the new spending decisions is to reduce the cost of primary school meals by 50p a day. This will cost £500K to implement. Hardly protecting front-line services, but working towards an existing pledge of providing free school meals to all primary school children in the city. As far as I'm concerned, it is not my responsibility to feed all of the primary school children of Hull. There are many families who already receive free school meals due to their current financial circumstances, but what about those people who can easily afford it? They should be paying for it themselves, but this argument doesn't resonate with the new ruling administration.

It looks like there will be a £6 million black hole in the budget next year that will need to be plugged. How do they plan to do it? My guess is they will rely on two things. Firstly, the government has promised to reward councils again for not increasing council tax. This could get the council through 2012/13, but will of course be storing up problems for the future. A source told me the administration is hoping it can limp through until the time of the next general election, hoping that a new government will give it a generous settlement. It is also likely to increase charges through the back door. Look out for increased parking charges, burial charges, planning application fees. You name it, the council will increase the charges for it.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Is this the leader of Hull City Council? "][/caption]

Instead of responsible local government, and making tough decisions, the administration is burying its head in the sand, hoping for jam tomorrow. It should be looking to provide the best front-line services, for the best possible price. It could look at cooperating with neighbouring East Riding Council. Both councils could merge some back-office functions. Although it has taken on my my suggestion to seek more private sponsorship for the city's Freedom Festival next year, it can expand this policy, engaging the private sector more. There are always savings to me made. Some are big; some are small, but they are there, and they require the political will.

Spending half a million pounds to reduce the cost of meals for all primary schoolchildren is a waste of money. Pretending you are really saving money by not going through with the planned voluntary redundancies is putting your head in the sand. The new leader, Cllr Steve Brady, needs to face reality and stop being an ostrich. Pretending the problem doesn't exist won't make it go away.

 

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