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Archive for the ‘Labour's cuts’ Category

South Tyneside Budget – a guest post

with 9 comments

George ElsomSome alternative ideas to throw into the melting point from Cllr. George Elsom.

My thanks go to Cllr. George Elsom the Real Independent councillor for the Cleadon Park ward, in South Shields, of South Tyneside  who was tasked with proposing an alternative budget at last week’s meeting of the full council. George was not expecting this task so his proposals were drawn up at very short notice following the unfortunate illness suffered by veteran councillor Jimmy Capstick, the Leader of the Progressive Group.

Although there are many aspects of his thoughts that I do not completely agree with, I welcome reader’s input as to what areas our council should be addressing as they approach a period of stricter financial control, where should spending be reduced, what services (if any) could generate additional revenue, and what new ideas do YOU have that may not have been previously explored or ignored?

This is the verbatim speech  he prepared for delivery to the council:

Response from the Opposition to Budget Proposals

Well Mr Mayor, I don’t believe that there is any councillor sitting here who wished to implement this level of cuts and to make so many staff redundant.
I certainly don’t envy the ruling group the hard choices that they have had to implement in order to make the cuts of £32 million in the budget.

Whose fault is it?

Well the initial blame lies with the last Labour Government who when faced with a problem simply threw money at the problem in the hope that it would go away. If that didn’t work then they threw some more money at it. They created a record number of Quangos staffed by some of their cronies at exorbitant salaries. (Some are over £250000 – twice what the prime minister gets).
They allowed the salaries of senior officers in the public sector to spiral out of control.
The difference between the salaries of front line staff and senior officials is frankly obscene.

However the Coalition Government has gone about the cuts in public expenditure in too brutal a fashion. They should have phased in the cuts so that the in the first year they were at least manageable and councils did not have to make so many staff redundant. Instead they have front loaded them and thus they are much too draconian.

Public service cuts are too large, being implemented too soon and services will suffer.

Of course it is the Government and NOT the Council who have frozen council tax.        So the council should not try to take credit for this.

What can and what did the council do when it learnt of the size of the cuts, is the key to this budget?

Every piece, root and branch, of council expenditure should have been frozen whilst feasibility studies were carried out across the board.

Is this project necessary?

If NO then cancel it.

If YES; can we do it any cheaper? Can we do it another way? Lateral thinking.

I do not believe that this has been carried out in full and I will illustrate this with two small examples.

(i) Traffic calming measures at Lizard Lane. Were there lots of accidents at this site? NO!
Road calming measures have been carried out that are excessive in the extreme.
From 30 to 40 to 20 to 40 to 30. Signs all over the place. We have two pinch points and seven cushions/humps. The road is a mess and a less costly, easier and safer option should have been considered.

(ii) In my own ward at Cedar Grove they are doing a lovely job of blocking off the road. Necessary? They could have trialled a one way system.
Also they are using expensive block paving on the paths. Cedar Grove and the surrounding paths don’t have block paving. So why here? It needs ongoing maintenance and costs a lot of money. I suggested – which was ignored – that we should tarmac. You can get coloured tarmac and even imprint it if you wish. This would save many thousands of pounds across the borough.

There are numerous other examples of the Council simply going ahead with costly schemes without obviously re-evaluating the cost or merits of such schemes. A question of ‘it’s been agreed so let’s just do it regardless’.

The most costly contract that the council has entered into is the Sita waste contract.

£1.6 billion over 25 years.

In light of the cuts this contract should have been renegotiated for less money and over a much shorter period. Technology is rapidly changing just look at phones, tv, cars, etc. so in ten years there will be rapid changes and in 25 years they are likely to be spectacular.

I had a very good meeting with the senior officers of waste management but what I couldn’t accept was their statement that landfill was an option. It is not an option – both on economic and environmental grounds.
Open windows example
Page 34 MTFP also Page 44 shows that the net spending on waste management is over £9 million – NOT a small sum!!
In 2013/14 it is envisaged that the new waste contract will cost us an extra £2 Page 48.
Are you aware that Sita are just taking the grey bin waste?

The green and blue bin waste collections are subject to separate contracts; and if we improve our recycling levels – as we must – then we will have more waste to dispose of and Sita will have less. Our costs to Sita will not drop.

This doesn’t strike me as VALUE FOR MONEY!

I’ve mentioned salaries earlier so I would just like to digress a little and state that did you know that in the borough there are:

2 teaching staff on salaries over £100000 but there are also
126 teaching staff with salaries of between £50000 to £100000?

In comparison at the council we have 4 officers on over £100000;
and 48 officers between 50000 and £100000.

At STH    1 officer is on over £100000 and
9 officers between £50000 and £100000.

There are rent arrears of well over a million pounds.

Regeneration! Regeneration! Regeneration!

That is the number one priority for South Tyneside Council and I agree that we must create more jobs and improve the fabric of the borough for the residents who live here.

The Chief Executive was appointed, in the main, because of his experience in this field.

But I question whether we then needed an Executive Director of Regeneration at around £125000 and then a deputy for another £75000 or so.

The combined figure is around £200000 which equates to 10 staff on £20000.

We should not be paying such high salaries as there is quite a large employment pool what with the abolition of all the Quangos, etc.

Consultancy fees

In 2009/2010 these amounted to almost three and a half million pounds and in 2010/2011 to almost three million pounds.
How much is in this budget? No easy figure to read as it is not shown but is swallowed up in other budgets.

What schools have asbestos in them? A figure of £200000 is on PAGE 49 reference 18.

For the reasons mentioned and for others that I don’t have time to mention I regretfully cannot support this budget and will accordingly abstain.

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Written by curly

March 1, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Council Tax freeze

with 2 comments

Ed Malcolm suggests it’s a Labour proposal

After years and years of doing nothing else but raising the level of Council Tax in South Tyneside (a real burden for the few who have to pay it), Ed Malcolm suggests in the Shields Gazette that the local Labour Party now want to freeze it!!

The council is aware that residents are suffering in this difficult financial climate, so we are proposing to freeze council tax in South Tyneside, so that our residents have one less pressure on already overstretched household budgets

Absolute poppycock Ed and you know it!

It is bad enough listening to our local Labour council vilifying the Conservative Party and the Lib-Dems for “cutting” expenditure (at a time when public expenditure and borrowing is still on the way up), but to then claim some sort of credit for a tax freeze, stretches the bounds of credibility. Until the chips were down Ed and his brother Iain didn’t have a clue how to reduce spending locally, every year when they asked the electorate about council tax in some sort of spin consultation, the choice was between rise a, b, c, or d! Never any offer of a freeze or reduction, that is, until the Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition forced it upon them.

The freeze has been imposed across the UK by central Government, which is offering councils a “reward” payment in compensation. South Tyneside will get £1.45m.

No apologies either for the economic mess that their party left behind nationally, neither does he mention that things would have been equally tough if Labour had returned to power in Westminster last year, no reminders about the huge spending cuts that Alistair Darling had lined up. Ed Malcolm made no conciliatory warnings before the last election that South Tyneside Council would have to cut it’s cloth with very large scissors – why?

More than likely because he regards the majority of us as pure mugs; the vast majority of council tax payers and South Tyneside Homes tenants do not pay full rent or council tax, rises hardly affect them at all, those on benefits hardly feel this particular cold blast of economic reality. No -  it is the small minority who do not receive benefits who feel the weight upon their shoulders, but the Malcolms know that come election time that small number is still likely to be in the minority when the ballot boxes are emptied.

We mugs all have terrible memories, we cannot remember more than a few weeks back, so it’s safe for Ed to start bashing the evil wicked Tories, it’s all their fault for messing things up, and the Labour Party kindly offered you a tax freeze to soften the blow.

Pass the sick bag.

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Written by curly

February 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm

On being “shafted”

with 3 comments

Dennis the Menace!

For labour MP’s to show their face and say they are working for the common people, the working class, then behind our backs shafting us, pushing us deeper in to real poverty, makes me so damn angry and then to hide behind a tissue of lies, their standard ‘It’s the Tories fault’ what a load of crap! (sic)

Well, O.K., he gets really mixed up on the difference between councillors and MPs, councils and government,  but I can understand the frustrations and sentiments that Dennis is attempting to articulate. This is the domain of the “intellectual” South Shields blogger.
It is so easy to forget that the fiscal policies of any government in this country generally take between eighteen months and two years to be felt on the ground as aggregate demand, but whatever pain we feel this year in South Shields will be blamed on the wicked evil Tories and their Lib-Dem partners, the fact that Alistair Darling promised economic cuts on a comparable scale will be conveniently forgotten as our MPs and councillors trot out the party line to an electorate largely immune to factual history. The fact that Labour dug an economic hole so deep that it will take the efforts of the next two generations to dig us out of it will also be conveniently forgotten.
Dennis makes the point that South Tyneside Council is hiking up the cost of rents to South Tyneside Homes’ tenants, unfortunately the vast majority of them are on benefit and will not feel the slightest twinge of pain because of it, it is the tiny amount of employed people who will once again shoulder the burden. Dennis also points out that councillors and MPs will not likely share the pain by reducing their expense claims, or top up their income with additional part time posts, plus ca change!
Politicians of all parties have always been guilty of this holier than thou stance, especially those who have recently lost highly paid ministerial positions. If they were making use of any skills which they had acquired in their pre-political days it might not feel so bad, but alas there are far too many who have done little else with their lives, they enriched themselves without enriching politics!

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Written by curly

February 5, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Selective amnesia Michael?

with 6 comments

Cllr. Michael Clare, South TynesideThis man needs taking to task!

“I do believe the coalition Government’s direction will have a significant impact on reducing job creation opportunities and sustainable employment if it continues to cut, without consideration for the social implications of such an approach.”

Cuts Michael, what cuts?

Don’t you remember that we already know that public expenditure was set to rise in the Budget announced by George Osborne?

Don’t you remember that we are actually talking about the reduction in the size of the growth in public expenditure?

Don’t you remember that Labour’s last Chancellor Alastair Darling heralded “cuts deeper and more severe than those applied in the Thatcher years” if they were returned to power?

Don’t you remember that the two major parties argued over a paltry £6bn worth of economies in the growth of public expenditure at the last election?

Coun Michael Clare, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for jobs, enterprise and regeneration, said the national situation will not get any better if the coalition Government continues its “brutal” cuts.

I guess you must mean the “brutal” rate of increase in public expenditure then Michael (in case you had forgotten).

However, just in case I forget, this is just the sort of language and reversion to type that I was expecting Labour members of South Tyneside to exhibit in the event that any bad news should befall this borough, little point in blaming the current economic situation on the party that created it (your own, in case you had forgotten) when there are good Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to pile the blame upon.

Just in case you have forgotten Michael, the election was less than ten weeks ago, remember? If the coalition government was four years old then perhaps we might be able to give your comments some credence, but seeing as it isn’t and the effects of Darling’s last budget have yet to feed through into the real economy, then frankly we cannot. If perhaps you had been humble enough to admit that Labour had left us with one or two problems and perhaps even given a short apology for the economic and fiscal ineptitude of a socialist government that once again ran out of other people’s money, I might have been more impressed. Instead your selective amnesia and eagerness to run to the default position of decrying evil Tory “cuts” does you a great disservice young man!

Now, then, how many jobs did the Labour Party manage to create in South Tyneside in the last thirteen years? Well there was a call centre on the riverside………….

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Gordon Brown’s big spending cut

with 5 comments

brown and cameronCameron has salary cut – by Brown!

The Telegraph has a very interesting little piece in its Mandrake column illustrating nicely the tribal instincts of the outgoing unelected Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his attitude towards his successor (whoever it may have been).

Despite the fact that the Brown led Labour government was profligate and wasteful in its spending, went on a massive binge spending spree in the weeks leading up to the election which required civil servants to request “letters of authority” from ministers, and generally added £ millions more to the national debt and the budget deficit, Brown at least did have one important spending cut in mind. Perhaps it was the only one he was determined would go through, so determined in fact that he ensured there was little or no publicity attached to the decision. He ensured that the Prime Minister’s salary was reduced from £194000 to £150000, thus ensuring that David Cameron would see very little benefit or rise in income compared to being Leader of the Opposition.

Bearing in mind that Cameron had already pre-announced that his government ministers would take a 5% pay cut on taking office, the new PM’s salary will now be down to just £14200 pa.

Little wonder that Brown, the member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, will be pretty scarce around the Palace of Westminster these days (come to think of it, just how will he justify claiming his MP’s salary?)

Never mind Dave, we are all in this together, many years of pain and all that, now what was that song? Oh yes, “The first cut is the deepest”.

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Written by curly

June 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Ron Paul on sovereign debt

with 4 comments

Liberal Democrats should think carefully about continuing the life of the current government and their own fiscal and EU policies.

European Socialism and the entitlement culture which has ran out of money.

A little simplistic perhaps, Thatcherite clear thinking maybe? The debt needs to be paid down fast! The spending needs to be reigned back now! Taxes may need to rise, the medicine will not be sugar coated.

Our three political parties argued a whole load of nonsense during the election campaign as Gordon Brown dragged both the Tories and the Lib-Dems onto his chosen battleground the “cuts vs investment” theme. Yet with one man wanting to scare the living daylights out of the electorate about the size of threatened Tory cuts (and he succeeded to some extent), and two not wanting to frighten voters away, we ended up with very little clarity or honesty about the size of the debt problem here. All three parties were arguing over a narrow range of expenditure figures that covered the £8bn to £14bn worth of identified “cuts”.

The IFS stated just a few days before the election that not a single party was being clear or honest about the scale of expenditure reduction that would be need to reduce the budget deficit by half within the next five years, of course it is easy to make a statement like this about two parties which have no access to the real time up to date figures, we rely on the governing party to give us the data. Leading economists are agreed that cuts in UK government spending of at least £50bn are required in the next financial year to have any real impact on the markets, and with currency turmoil likely to reappear in Europe a solid financial basis here would help to protect the pound. £50bn of cuts in one year!

Do you realise that (taking into account price inflation) this would scale back public spending to the levels that we last saw in 2007-08, and wasn’t that a very austere year!

That’s right, they were scared of talking about spending cuts that would have sent us back two whole years!

If the Liberal Democrats want to get into government by forming a coalition or agreement with either of the other two parties, they have to ask themselves if Nick Clegg and “low voltage” Cable really do understand the depth of our £1.5 trillion debt crisis, and would they be capable of going along with cuts at a rate much higher than was talked about during the election, or would they prefer to stick with the spendthrift Mr. Brown who has helped to stoke the debt crisis with his increased borrowings?

Choices , choices lads.

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Written by curly

May 10, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Evil Tories want to make cuts…..

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……so do Labour of course.

Here is an old video illustrating in nice simple easy terms what a budget deficit looks like and what the scale of the problem of budget cuts is for President Obama’s US administration. Why should we be interested in South Shields you ask? Because the Labour Party want to scare you with lies about evil Tory cuts to schools, the NHS, pensioners bus passes, winter heating allowances, etc. etc. etc. This is all despite the fact that if Labour is returned to power Alistair Darling has already indicated that Labour’s cuts will be more severe and run deeper than those executed by Maggie Thatcher.

The Conservatives want to get going on reducing the budget deficit and the borrowing problem straight away, Labour reckon we can wait a bit, the size of the cuts talked about so far by the Conservatives are only £7bn more than those talked about by Labour, but at the end of the day our problem is very much the same as Obama’s, we just have a smaller table.

Found at Iain Dale’s Diary

Here’s a cut that could be made without hurting anyone much, next time you see South Shields MP David Miliband tell him to STOP wasting our money!

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Written by curly

April 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm

On South Shields people

with 13 comments

We could really develop an unwanted reputation

I’ve been off-line since Monday evening with a very poorly modem, now that that my ISP has replaced it I can start catching up with whatever is going on in the cyberspace and the real world too. I’ve spent much of the last couple of days delivering the Conservative message to parts of the South Shields constituency on behalf of Karen Allen, and I understand that already it has garnered a flurry of emails offering help, encouragement, support, and even man hours! Which is great, because I am sure there are sufficient people in this town who have had quite enough of the natural socialist domination around here to last a lifetime, just because your dad or your granddad voted Labour does not necessarily mean that you must too.

There is no shame in voting against a party which surely brought us the worst Prime Minister in British history and gave us a debt too large to even imagine, a debt that will still be crippling our grandchildren as they try to build their own futures. There is no shame in making your own decisions about how you would like your future and your children’s future to develop, no shame in wanting to stand firm and solid as a family taking on your responsibilities, no shame in wanting a government that might be there to help from time to time but which knows when it’s right to stay out of your family’s business. So to take a different path and move away from what your grandfather traditionally did (simply because his father told him to) is not shameful at all, in fact it is a very redeeming quality of which you should be proud.

I’d like South Shields people to be proud, and I’d like them to proudly support and help one of their own, Karen Allen, to deliver a massive message to Gordon Brown’s party of failure, a message that says thirteen years was long enough, you failed to build on any successes of the Major years (and the foundations left by the last Conservative government were good for growth), and it is now time to vacate Whitehall and make way for a new administration. I’d be proud if lots of South Shields people took that attitude and voted Conservative, particularly for a local Conservative who was born and bred here. Our current MP was parachuted into the seat as a big favour by Tony Blair, his predecessor was in dire need of a safe seat having lost Nelson and Colne, and you’d have to go a long way back before you bumped into a local Labour man representing the town.

So, I wouldn’t like Ambush Predator to be sitting there feeling smug as he pronounces about Labour’s traditional supporters:

But in South Shields, it seems you really can fool all of the people all of the time. Oh, they won’t turn up to listen to you, or ask you questions. But they’ll vote for you, simply because they always have done.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

MIliband in his video shown in The Guardian makes the same lame point that we should carry on supporting the values of Labour as our father’s and grandfather’s did, it’s a video worth watching, and the comments that follow are all worth a good read too, the video features Rob Jewitt from South Shields who lectures at Sunderland University and writes Remedial Thoughts. Cannot help wondering why Ms. Allen didn’t lay into Miliband with a lead lined handbag after his inane suggestion that WalMart’s relocation of Asda from one end of the town centre to the other was one of the huge saviours of South Shields, nor his pathetic attempt to dress up the building of a few new schools to replace the failing buildings (and educational prowess) of yesteryear as the schools population continued to decline. Worse still were his comments regarding further education, which the cynics amongst us will say has been engineered to keep young people out of the unemployment statistics and even invited them to contribute their own money to do so, laugh later as they leave with £20000 worth of debt, no chance of getting on the housing ladder, and even less economic or job security as the economies of India and China surge ahead, or the fact that both Mandelson and Darling have promised deeper and heavier cuts than anything that Margaret Thatcher’s government managed! We won’t even go into the realms of real democracy and justice, or mention the Chargossians, extraordinary rendition, Binyam Mohamed, anti-terror laws, keeping secrets from judges, or any other insignificant acts of a Foreign Secretary, we don’t have time now. Our MP even has the ability to spout numbers, make the same gestures and hand movements as Blair – just what this town needs!

As I said, it doesn’t have to be this way.

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Written by curly

April 14, 2010 at 7:45 pm

The fear of facing reality

with one comment

David cameron cost cutting

Politicians don’t want to talk about the pain!

The news agenda has been virtually dominated by the economy, as it should do, over the past few days with the Conservatives wheeling out George Osborne at the British Museum to espouse how they would try and tackle Britain’s enormous budget deficit and our debt mountain which is the highest in the industrial world. Rebuffing it all in a jolly sort of way Lord Mandelson for Labour tries to suggest that “boy George” has his sums all wrong again, but the Prince of Darkness is no expert when it comes to figures himself he just knows how to talk a good game. It’s this glossing over of the realities which really causes me some pain at the moment, noting that leading politicians from both Labour and the Conservatives are painfully unwilling to front up to the facts that our imbalance between tax receipts and planned spending is actually a huge gargantuan gulf, a gulf so large that it has to be supported by the biggest amount of debt in our history and the printing of money.

Neither party wants to be seen as the bringer of pain, yet pain there will have to be in some measure in order to pay off the debt and reduce the size of the deficit, our economy will not enjoy a healthy return to growth and financial liquidity until our international credit rating recovers, and that will not happen whilst we carry these double millstones around our neck. I don’t know how other people in South Shields view the national economic situation but I’m sure that the majority of us are feeling its effects on our own household budgets, and having enjoyed the fruits of a debt induced growth over the past decade there will be some shocks for some as we learn that the national debt needs to be paid down quickly. If we want jobs and prosperity then we need a stronger pound to attract inward investment, steady interest rates to encourage the flow of money, and a reduced size of the state and public sector to encourage a flourishing private sector that supports small and medium enterprises.

National debt

Picture via Guido Fawkes

Our national debt as a percentage of GDP is higher than all of our industrial competitors and politicians of both parties are now too afraid to approach the issue in fear of losing popular support, as Guido points out in his post Mandelson, Brown, Osborne and Cameron now appear to be competing on how little pain they can cause to reduce the deficit, this argument is simply not sustainable.

As the general election approaches both major parties need to take some strong medicine and admit to the size of the problem, and the self inflicted wounds to the economy from Brown’s thirteen year stewardship will not be healed by a few headache removing aspirins! It will do us no good at all in putting off the inevitable, there is a job to be done which may well involve some major surgery to stem the haemorrhage and aid the recovery. We need a clear cut choice, perhaps a polarisation of the parties so we know that one will offer hard choices and hard decisions now that may lead to a low tax economy later, and I’ve said for years that standing in the middle of the road is the best place to have an accident, the fact that both the Socialist and Tory economic policies are so similar is not a good option for politics, popularity, or Britain’s weak economy.

Our politicians need to face their own fears and swallow a massive dose of honesty.

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Written by curly

February 3, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Labour’s local problems

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Cllr. Iain Malcolm, South Tyneside

Told you it was adaptable (a bit like local politicians when facing a financial crisis)

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Written by curly

January 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm

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