Walking through Westgate village earlier, I see the Thanet Gazette is attempting to sell papers on the back of a headline outside the newsagents: "Top Councillor in Plane Banner Woe." Very catchy I though and I had to smile. "Read all about it!"
Each new year is interesting in its own right and 2011 should be no different. Let's not forget as well the end of the world being forecast for December 2012 as well, which doesn't give us much time to get things done! Come May, everyone will have their chance, through the local elections to express their feelings on national politics. In reality, one shouldn't be a forum for the other but invariably, this is the case and by then, many people will have forgotten that the present government is working quite hard to tackle the complete mess, both social and financial, left by the previous regime.
Here in Thanet, we've had to tighten our belts, because like everywhere else in the country, the good times of Labour spending everyone else's money on generous public services, without regard to the consequences, are over. For interest, here's a link to a report by The Economist magazine but at the Cabinet level we have to make some tough decisions on what we can afford and where local priorities should lie, given the large cuts in central government funding. By sharing services with neighbouring local authorities, such as IT and Human Resources, we hope to achieve economies of scale that will make a significant contribution to the bottom line of the council's budget and I'm hoping that further efficiencies across the council's service structure, will shield much of the population from the true impact of reduced central government grants.
The Economist points out, quite correctly, that the 'councils most reliant on central government grant because they are in poorer areas with populations requiring more help, would have been hit far harder than those in better-off parts which raise a higher share of their spending from council tax. The solution has been to group councils into four bands (according to their reliance on central funding) and to set limits to cuts within each of these bands.'
Perhaps the most fundamental question of all for the people of Thanet is that of who you want to run your council and carry you through the tough times ahead? Is it the present Conservative administration of which I happen to be a junior member or an untried and broadly unqualified opposition, which carries with it, a great deal of ancient, socialist political baggage, as we are constantly reminded in the local press? I'd simply say in conclusion that we can't spend money that we don't have and this coming year is one that demands an attention to detail and finances, in a way that may not have even been seen before in local government.
I may write more later as the muse takes me.