Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Labour's prescription for Cornwall - Close small schools and praise the Tories

A council budget meeting is one of the biggest political events of the year. Whilst at other times you can expect to see councillors from different political parties working together, during the budget debate you will tend to see two (or more) very different programmes emerging as different parties set out their vision for our area.

Yesterday we saw a clear difference between those who believe in freezing council tax and those who want to put it up. We also saw a different split between those who believe in the continuing mismanagement of frontline services and those who believe that we should be saving buses and public toilets and protecting town centre businesses from high parking charges.

But what of the Labour point of view. There is a single Labour councillor on Cornwall Council and, despite protestations of making a comeback, they have performed dismally in the two recent council by-elections. Yesterday's performance might explain why.

Jude Robinson nailed her tax and spend colours firmly to the mast with a vote both in favour of a 3% tax rise and against the Lib Dem freeze proposal. But it was in her speech on the main budget debate that she most surprised me.

Her opening line was to praise the current (Tory-led) administration for their work over the past year. Yep - the administration which has presided over a budget crisis, is endangering half the bus network and is threatening to close almost half the public toilets gets the thumbs up from Labour. The reason for the thumbs up? Because of the way they have handled the budget cuts necessitated by the financial crisis left behind by the last Labour government.

She did issue some criticisms. She said she disagreed with the administration on waste and on adult care but saved her biggest attack for the failure to close small village schools. It appears that the headline Labour policy for Cornwall is to attack rural communities and to force poorer families into towns and cities.

So it is clear. Labour's message for Cornwall is in favour of higher taxes, backing the Tory handling of the council and campaigning to destroy village life by closing smaller schools.

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