On Thursday the 17th of February, the Swindon Labour Group opposed the Conservative administration’s budget and we did so for several reasons.
First and foremost, we opposed the Conservatives budget because of the high risk strategy the Conservative Group have adopted in budgeting for the protection of the vulnerable.
We have seen this with the privatisation of the Council’s home care service, sacrificing the quality of care for Swindon’s 90 most vulnerable people in order to save £900,000. However right across the Social Services budget, the amount of savings that have needed to be made are so challenging that I would argue this budget is tearing apart at the seams and could lead to devastating consequences.
We are also seeing the high risk strategy the Conservatives have adopted through their decision to make 20% cuts to SureStart- a service designed to help some of the most vulnerable families across Swindon. However with £3.2 million being cut from the Children’s Services budget, Swindon borough Council is at risk of losing touch with our town’s young, who are really hurting with Swindon’s high child poverty and youth unemployment levels.
The second reason why the Labour Group opposed the Conservative administration’s budget is because, despite all the cuts, they continue to waste millions of pounds of Council-taxpayers money each year on vanity projects and non-essential spending.
Take the Forward Swindon Regeneration Company. This receives £750,000 of Swindon Council-tax payers’ money each year. Should Swindon Council-tax payers’ be spending this level of money each year on a bureaucratic and unaccountable quango? This is a simple question, yet one that the Conservative administration refused to answer when the Labour Group posed it.
Another area of Council spending this Conservative administration refuses to talk about is its publication of the Swindon borough Council newspaper. Two weeks ago Eric Pickles asked why local authorities, like Swindon borough Council, weren’t reducing or even ending their Council-taxpayer funded newspaper. Again, this is a simple question that this Conservative administration fails to address.
It would be wrong for me to say that if Labour were in administration we would not make cuts. However the Labour Group would never produce a budget where cuts to the young, the elderly and the vulnerable are being made over cuts to hospitality, Council-taxpayer funded newspapers and bureaucratic local quangos.
Cllr Derique Montaut,
Swindon Labour Group Leader, Central Ward.