Friday, 4 November 2011

Two days in November

I blogged about the first day of the Council's budget scrutiny session yesterday. Although day two had a few more specifics, it was still utterly frustrating.

The things we learned:

- Officers given 15 minutes to present their budget plans for next year are more than happy to spend 13 of those minutes talking about their achievements of the past year and in two cases never got on to future plans at all;
- They never seem to give any figures;
- Except those written on Powerpoint slides which are far too small for anyone in the audience to read;
- The amount of management speak being used is getting beyond a joke. What exactly is 'transformational change' and what does 'operationally integrate' mean?

We have been promised a few more detailed answers over the next weeks, but various schemes that were trumpeted by the Leader when the budget was launched are still pretty thin on details. What about the 'Cornish EMA'? Who will it help, how much will they each get and what will happen after the second year? And we were told nothing at all about the 'bursary scheme'.

Last year we were told that lots of saving headlines were included in the budget but the details were leaked out bit by bit over the year. This year I have asked for the full details of implicit service cuts to be made available before we are asked to vote on the budget.

We asked about the knock on effects of the cuts to the bus concessionary fare reimbursement on the adult care and childrens services budgets. Unfortunately this work hasn't been done and so we still cannot be sure that the budget is not proposing a cut of £2 million from one service only to lump an additional £2.5 million onto other budgets.

I remain convinced that 'going early' has become a matter of dogma rather than practicality - especially as, according to the Chief Exec, no further cuts are proposed. The rationale for going early last year was that making cuts as soon as possible saved more money for less pain. That argument doesn't appear to be relevant this year, so why are we being asked to vote something through which clearly has not been properly worked out in many respects.

Andrew Wallis has also written on this and I echo his thoughts. Whatever the past two days have been, they have certainly not been an effective scrutiny of the detailed plans for the next year's Cornwall Council budget.

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