Friday, 15 March 2013

Cabinet has a toddler tantrum

Sadly, but not entirely unpredictably, Cornwall Council's cabinet have thrown their toys out of the pram when it comes to implementing the budget agreed last month by the full council. They are talking up the threat of service cuts rather than cutting back on waste.

The full council backed a Lib Dem amendment which will see a council tax freeze - saving every household between £20 and £70 this year. In addition, there will be £2.5 million invested to repair the roads over the next two years, cuts to parking charges, action to tackle anti-social behaviour and a spring clean for Cornwall. No wonder the cabinet didn't like it - they wanted to see a tax rise and no investment in services.

The key to paying for this was a cut to the amount wasted on consultants and agency staff. In just two years, this amount has risen from £750,000 per month to £1.1 million per month. Full council asked for this to be reversed. There needed to be no cuts in services and no front line staff axed.

But the cabinet could not give up their addiction to consultants and expensive agency staff. The council has issued a press release which doesn't mention a cut to consultants at all. And, whilst some departments appear to be able to cut back on agency spending with no real impact on performance, others claim that they must lose full time contract staff and cut services.

The Liberal Democrats are clear that there needs to be no loss to services, no cuts to localism and no cuts to the library service based on the budget passed by full council. These cuts have all been chosen by the current cabinet who are addicted to wasteful spending.

If the Liberal Democrats are given a position of influence after the May elections we will reverse these front line service cuts and implement the budget that was agreed by full council instead.


23 comments:

Mick said...

Alex

Do you really think we, the public whom you serve are so thick that we are taken in by your constant propaganda - i and several others are becomeing completely fed up with your continued sniping at everyone other than you and when the focus turns you still try and blame all around you - i sincerley hope that you and the Liberal Democrats get all that you deserve on the 2nd May.
Regarding your budget - if you have been told time and time again that there are no agency/consultant budgets - these arent largely paid for out of revenue budgets so you cant cut them - you know this really and the fag packet budget was merely to grab some headlines when it was voted out but now you and mr rowe have more egg on your faces that humpty dumpty.
So come on then Alex....if solving the budget gap is soooo easy just come out and tell us all exactly which budget lines and specific services you would reduce to balance the books - everyone will then say you were right and you will become a hero.
So come on the Alex, lets here it on your blog and at cabinet on Monday - no spin, no cheap shots, just plain and simple facts and information so all the staff and public who are now so anti you and your cronies can rethink...............

Alex Folkes said...

Hi Mick
Thanks for the comment.

What the Lib Dems have always said is that we should be reducing the spending on consultants and agency staff. Part of the problem is that there are no distinct budgets for this spending and so it has spiraled out of control.

I have been sent examples of stupid agency spending on things that should be included within the core budget within a wide range of departments.

Reading the papers for Monday, it looks like the two departments where the biggest threats to services were made by cabinet members - adult care and childrens - have said that they can largely cope with the cuts without hitting frontline services. Obviously if there is large scale sickness then there would be a problem, but that's the same in any organisation.

I'm disappointed that other services have not looked at things quite so neutrally.

hatchelt said...

People losing their jobs is the result of a "toddler tantrum" eh? What world do you live in?

DNP said...

Alex,
A very unconvincing answer to the points Mick raised. He asked for specifics and you gave him waffle. A disappointingly hollow response in the light of your original triumphalism.

RedCornwall said...

I consider this budget to be a betrayal of the council staff and Unison who in good faith voted by 2/3 FOR a pay freeze and cuts to their terms and conditions in order to safeguard jobs.

Many of those jobs will now be sacrificed for your politicking.

They already have a Govt (YOUR Govt) imposed pay freeze to loo forward to for the remains of this parliament and your budget will now add further insecurity and load more work on those that remain.

I hope your headline grabbing was worth the pain that that this will cost to the permanent staff and the agency staff who have their own families and to the businesses and local shops they support with their wages.

Mick said...

Great response Alex...not as DNP said, i asked you to give the public specifics and you gave us waffle - not sure why i'm not surprised.
So lets try it another way - you mention Adults and Childrens and critcise the approach of others sp how would you have made the £300,000 saving fromlibraries, one stop shops and the contact centre then as reading the original budget report is was made very clear that this area was on the list, you obviously worked through this in great detail so how would you deal with it as from what i read these agency staff are used to keep libraries open........

Alex Folkes said...

Mick - You asked about how we would find the money. I pointed out that, as there are no budgets we would be looking to cut the overall spending on consultants and agency staff and not apportion the cuts to specific budgets.
In the case of localism, there are no agency staff employed in that service and so we consider it wrong to seek to make any savings there.
Other departments employ a much larger proportion of agency staff than the 'allocation' suggests. One such is IS where a large proportion of the staff are on agency contracts. We wouldn't be getting rid of the staff but bringing them onto contract to provide the same service at a fraction of the cost.
In the same way, as the West Briton found, there are very large numbers of very expensive social workers on agency contracts. We cannot afford to do without these staff and so there is really no sensible reason why they are on agency contracts. Move them onto staff contracts and we keep the staff, keep the service but save money.
Finally, why is the council not getting rid of any consultants? There is a huge and growing amount of spending in this area - on projects such as ERP and Shared Services, but also on many others. We can never get rid of all consultants, but employing someone for over a year at a cost to the council of more than £1000 per day is bad use of money.

Indy Cornwall said...

All you've spoken about are cuts to Agency staff and consultants. Funny how you no longer talk about the £400,000 of savings you specifically identified as needing to come from the council communications and localism department!
Your pathetically political party do nothing for Cornwall and I hope people vote that way in May. Vote Indy; get the politics out of Cornwall and start putting Cornwall first!!!!
So don't talk about saving localism and saving people money, you lumped localism and a few others in with all your other savings and no amount of backtracking (SPIN) now can change that fact

Toni Mills said...

It's strange to see the 'official' Tories and the LibDems working together at a local level in the same way they do at the national level after nearly four years. I don't know what option there is in May other than independent (or Jude Robinson if you vote in Camborne).

Steve said...

Alex,

If you are so confident that what you have done is soo right then why don't you put your money where your mouth is. Instead of idle chatter and waffle why don't you formally respond to the cabinet with your own 'detailed' budget implementation which cuts the consultants, appoints all the agency staff into full time contracts and doesn't result in cuts to frontline services and jobs whilst at the same time freezing Council Tax?

You have to do this now to have any credibility; you can't wait until the elections hoping the Lib Dems will be in a position of influence - you proposed this crazy budget for heavens sake - what more influence do you want?

Obviously if you don't have the skills to do this properly yourself then you could hire in some temporary help...but then again you're against that kind of thing aren't you? Why don't you hire someone full time...be cheaper won't it?

If you do nothing or can't balance the budget you proposed yourself then the only decent thing to do Alex is resign.

Best of luck on May 2nd

DNP said...

Interesting suggestion made by Steve in the last post. How about it, Alex? If your budget was made on the basis of sound facts, complying with Steve's request shouldn't be too difficult. Of course, if your budget wasn't properly costed...................

Van Pentle said...

@Indy Cornwall: Vote Indy to "get politics out of Cornwall"? Are you serious? The 'Independents' who have supported the Tory administation in County Hall are virtually a de facto political party.

In fact, given the current divisions within the Tory group, they are a far more cohesive and distinct political party than their County Hall partners.

R OB said...

Dear Alex Folkes,
Why do you spend all your time scoring political points and not representing the residents of Launceston Central? You and the Liberal Democrats represent the unacceptable face of British politics. I pray that you will all be out of office after May 2nd.
Regards,
R OB

riscornwall said...

Alex,
You and your chums seem oblivious to the political elephant in the room, namely UKIP. People are fed up with the duplicitous and manipulative behaviour of the Lib Dems both local and national (I note that Chris Huhne still enjoys the support of Shirley Williams Nick Clegg and Paddy Pantsdown, which says it all really). The public's perception of the Liberal Democrats is at an all time low, which will, inevitably allow UKIP to make significant gains. I understand that they intend to contest every Council Division in Cornwall and voters are likely to gravitate to them in significant numbers. I await with interest.

riscornwall

Mick said...

well said Steve, that was exactly what i was trying to say - if Alex and his chums have worked their budget up in detail then tell all at Cabinet on Monday to save the pur services and souls that will face the axe, this wont happen as alex knows there are no revenue budgets for consultants etc they come out of non revenue budgets so cant be touched. Time to stand down Alex before the people of Launceston do it formally in May..

hatchelt said...

Here's a thought...and it's kinda radical I admit...but what if...gosh, what if we got rid of those troublesome agency staff AND raised council tax by a few pence?! Holy smokes, what a beautiful world it could be...it's...it's almost like I have Cornwalls best interests in mind...

Mick said...

Great result yesterday Alex, you must be well pleased to get the peoples budget through, i bet your post office has had to take on extra agency staff to deal with the sack loadfs of fan mail you must be getting now!

Separate question, i hear people are talking about Purdah starting soon - can you tell me what it is??

Alex Folkes said...

Hi Mick
Purdah is the name given to the period immediately before an election during which the council restricts what it says and does in public so as to avoid influencing the results.
So the council will not use its resources to promote a particular individual even if they hold a position (such as cabinet member) within the authority.
You will see fewer press releases and council organised events and (supposedly) fewer council meetings, although we have one in mid April, which seems a bit bizarre, but there you go.
Alex

DNP said...

Before entering purdah, Alex, perhaps you could answer the various questions addressed to you in previous correspondence about the specfics of your proposals?

hatchelt said...

LOL DNP, that would require him knowing the answers ;) Besides, what's the point, he's not gonna be around in a few months anyway.

DNP said...

Given your usual prolific blogging, Alex, I'm rather surprised (and disappointed) at your delay in responding to the various comments made. Unless, of course, you are collating your data in preparation for astounding us with the depth of your analysis. On the other hand......

Mick said...

Thanks Alex - when does purdah start for Cornwall Council?

DNP said...

No answers then, Alex? I'll just have to remember this when it's time to cast my ballot. One less for the Lib Dems.