Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cornwall Budget will boost job numbers

There has been a lot written about the decision by full council on Tuesday to endorse the Liberal Democrat budget amendment. One of the uglier consequences is that some councillors who supported the cabinet's proposed tax rise are scare-mongering about where the axe will fall. Yet this budget will actually boost jobs numbers, not cut them.

Shamefully, some are suggesting that whole swathes of adult care, children's services and other front-line services will go.

In our budget amendment, the Liberal Democrats made it quite clear that we wanted to see the amount being spent on agency staff and consultants cut. Two years ago, that amount was £750,000 per month. Now it is more than £1.1 million per month. We have set a target of bringing the level of spending back down to that of two years ago.

This is partly due to a small number of consultants on rates of more than £1000 per day. But it is mainly down to a culture of 'flexible working' whereby agency staff are being used because it is easy to hire and fire them as they are needed. But agency staff are expensive - sometimes costing the council as much as double the rate of workers on contracts. And so it seems pretty pointless to use agency staff except for emergencies.

Yet Cornwall Council, under the Conservatives, has been using more and more agency staff to cover routine work. This is work that has to be done week in, week out and the staff who are doing it are good at it. We don't want to lose them. So we have said that the bulk of the savings should be made by transferring agency workers onto contract. Same staff, same work, savings for the council.

Yet some councillors seem to be implying that they would rather cut services instead. I think, and hope, that they are bluffing. But if they insist on doing so then this is their decision. It is not necessary because of the budget vote and Lib Dems will be campaigning against it.

What seems also to have been forgotten is the investment that the budget will be making in extra services:
  • The decision to put £2.5m into road repairs over the next two years will keep more people in work and mean that our roads get repaired properly rather than the 'dry-fill' repairs that are the only option for our staff and which barely last a day or two in places;
  • The decision to clean up our beaches and verges will help sustain our tourist industry which supports tens of thousands of jobs and the biggest sector of our economy;
  • The decision to put money into tackling anti-social behaviour will mean more jobs in our youth service in the short-term but will also help young people avoid criminal records and mean that they are more employable in the future;
  • The decision to cut parking charges will help to safeguard tens of thousands of jobs in town centre shops and businesses that were threatened by the high charges levelled by the Tory-led administration.
In short, this was a budget that will mean more jobs, nor fewer.

In other news, it appears that cabinet member Carolyn Rule has quit the Conservative group in protest at the decision by the party leadership to back the tax freeze.

1 comment:

Alanna Coombes said...

This is great stuff Alex - can I take this as a submission for Council Group of the Year? (Btw will you or any of your group be at Brighton conference?) Thanks! ALanna