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A budget for the real world

February 24, 2003 12:00 AM
By Councillor David Goodall in Eastleigh Borough Full Council Meeting - Budget Debate

Well we have had some very interesting speeches on this budget tonight. And we also had a briefing on the background to the budget by Nick Tustian, the council's head of Financial Services last Tuesday.

The two main elements that came out of the briefing were the need to keep healthy balances at a minimum level of 10% of net spend, and that currently expenditure exceeds income by about £500k per year.

Now at the budget briefing Colin Davidovitz said that keeping 10% a minimum balance was to good idea. Therefore I find tonight's proposal for a lower than budgeted for council tax rate somewhat at odds with this idea. For it can only paid for by either cutting expenditure or reducing the council balances. So I can only conclude that the Conservative Group wish to cut expenditure and so cut council services.

The proposal to cut the planned budget by the 5.3% would reduce the expenditure by about ¼ million pounds. Maybe the Conservative group will tell the rest of the council, which service they wish to cut this money from or maybe they wish to cut the budgets of a number of departments. In a sort of scattergun approach, to ruin council plans and services on a wider scale.

The effect of such a policy would be to exchange short-term political gain for long term financial pain.

Quite simply this would not a sensible way to manage the council finances. It is far better to plan council finances on a long-term basis. So as to ensure that no under investment occurs.

Nationally we have seen what such under investments and short term thinking lead to

> a Health Service funded way below the European average.

> an education service with a backlog of school repairs.

> and a rail service full of cracked rails and old trains.

and the list goes on.

And nationally the effect on financial balances can be spectacularly poor, as in the 1990's when the Conservative government managed to double he national debt in 5 years, to a point where the expenditure on the interest exceeded the entire budget for the health and education services.

This is in stark contrast to the this balanced budget presented to us this evening which keeps the reserve as a genuine emergency and balancing fund, and keeps a correct level of investment in council services.

This budget invests in our existing services :-

> to further improve staff development.

> to further improve refuse collection service

> to further improve the street cleaning

> to further improve the graffiti removal service

> to further improve the shopmobility scheme

To name but a few of the proposed ideas.

This budget will also provide new and better services to the community :-

> a better night bus service

> a better CCTV scheme for Eastleigh

> a better tree service for the borough - as we don't want trees crashing through school buildings.

This again names but a few of the schemes.

So this proposed budget is a good steady step to improve the quality of the lives of all people within the borough. And I would recommend that all councillors wishing to see improved and better services for the people of Eastleigh to vote it and support the executive.