On the 23rd of February Swindon’s Councillors will be setting a budget for the forthcoming financial year. The Conservative administration has proposed a budget based on their priorities last week.
There is some common ground on this budget. Recognising the tough times for many of Swindon’s families, Labour welcomes the use of government funding to freeze residents’ council-taxes next year. Labour also welcomes the Conservative administration’s decision to reverse their previous policy to switch off many of Swindon’s streetlights- something Labour had campaigned for. And we welcome the fact that the Conservative administration listened to residents’ and Labour’s concerns and will now provide funding for a bus service to Penhil & Coleview- albeit an off-perk service for only one year.
However with the Conservative-led government cutting its funding to Swindon borough Council, it is hugely important that the Council ensures that all of its income is spent on essential and frontline projects, while doing its best not to lose Council jobs.
That is why it is unforgivable that the Conservative administration has increased the Council’s consultancy budget to £1.3m during recent times. And it is unforgivable that £11m of next year’s budget will be allocated to debt charges, to pay off the administration’s £116m debt- an increase of £36m in the previous year.
Meanwhile, this administration is embarking on one off the biggest cuts to frontline services in Swindon’s history, on top of the cuts it has already made since May 2010. This will mean that £150K will be cut next year on bus services to the Great Western Hospital, £154K is being cut from Swindon’s Children Centres and £250K is being cut from Supporting People projects that help poor young families, people suffering from mental health illnesses and homeless people.
So the proposals put forward by the Conservative administration will mean that £12.3m of your money will be spent next year on unnecessary consultants and to the Council’s creditors to pay off part off the Tories debt. Meanwhile services to our town’s elderly, to our poor and to our young people will be stripped back. And this will cost 120 Council jobs for Swindon people in the process.
If elected in May, a Labour administration would have a different set of priorities. We would start by cutting £2m in senior management and consultant costs and by establishing a clear plan to reduce the Tories £116m debt. And these savings would then be reinvested in to services provided for the elderly (like protecting bus services), young people (through protecting Sure Start) and the poor (through protecting Supporting People projects).
Cllr Jim Grant
Swindon Labour Group Leader