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Cabinet Member chosen to follow Peter Craske was Brad Smith (Adults’ Services) but his four minute report on Adult
Services was overshadowed by the aftermath of
the showman’s revelations and the distribution of
his document that proclaimed the details. He said that
the Council was delivering “good quality care within the resources available”
and “bugetary pressures were being met in innovative ways”. Councillor Smith is
responsible for spending £53·9 million this year, the biggest departmental budget, but
might benefit from a few lessons in sales technique from Peter Craske. No one asked him any questions.
Cabinet Member Philip Read may not be quite up to Craske levels of theatricality but like him he is well versed in the art of political catcalls.
He “reflected on the journey we have been on, a journey that has seen a huge reduction in financial support but we have demonstrably risen to that challenge. We have resisted the soft option of putting up compulsory taxes”. Well chosen words. My Council Tax is up by about 4% because of the voluntary Bin Tax alone and so far I have avoided paying the Yellow Money Box Tax.
He must have forgotten about the compulsory taxes imposed on the poorest families (they now pay Council Tax where previously they did not) but he had not forgotten the need to make fun of the opposition. This time he had Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) in his sights and suggested he might be already Tweeting his support for Cabinet Member Craske. Tory colleagues dutifully laughed.
“The reception on the doorstep within our own wards, those who pay Council Tax appreciate and support our decision not to increase it over the period of the last Council and are fully behind our decision to hold it at a minimum level in the years up to 2018.” I think he meant maximum level without the authority of a referendum.
“It would be nice to think that members of the opposition within the Scrutiny process would come forward with some constructive and positive contributions instead of their normal and consistent demands to either make no particular saving or to increase expenditure. We shall see.”
“Children’s Services continues to improve the quality of our service at a time of reducing resources and increasing demand and cost inflation”. The aim to increase the proportion of permanent staff is succeeding which has brought down costs.
Five minutes, only two attacks on the opposition. Not bad by Philip Read’s standards.
Cabinet Member for Education, Rob Leitch, is not one to wander into unnecessary baiting of the opposition. He quickly placed on the record that he was a strong supporter of Public Realm investment “impressions form reputations and I know local residents will be delighted [by Peter Craske’s announcement]” and welcomed the support for Friends’ Groups and the promised deep cleaning of high streets.
On education he said that “funding per head was at an historically low level” and “the funding formula is unhelpful”.
Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) spoke in favour of the strategy of keeping Council Tax levels low into the future.
Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) applauded “the balanced budget” which provides a platform for making the borough a better place to live. Councillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Brampton) said she was very pleased with what is happening within Children’s Services. Keeping SEN pupils in mainstream schools doesn’t just save money it is beneficial to those children.
No one else was interested in speaking so the Cabinet voted through the budget proposals unanimously.