Saturday 25 February 2017

Budget debate

Two meetings Thursday night. The first was a half-hour meeting conferring the Freedom of the Borough on Rob Tinlin, whose tenure as Town Clerk ends next month. This was followed by Full Council, and this meeting began with a moment of silence in memory of former councillor Ric Morgan who had recently passed away. Then onto the budget debate.

One thing that I had not noticed, or rather fully appreciated, was that the Poppy Wave that is coming to the borough in April is only with us for seventy-five days (12th April to 25th June). Since this is costing residents £300,000 that works out at £4,000 per day.

It was an unimaginative budget that contains a 4.99% Council tax rise - the largest for a decade.

I asked about the item on the Rationalisation of sports pitches. Sports pitches is a subject close to my heart, having an intimate acquaintance with many of the borough's football pitches over a long refereeing career. A saving of £20,000 had been identified and I was seeking clarification as to where the savings will be made. The answer was unclear (it was an evening of indistinct and unclear answers), although a consultation and then the possibility of commercial enterprises being involved was mentioned.

I did comment that "satisfactory replies were as rare as a kakapo sighting". The budget debate was especially characterised by poor performances by the Cabinet.  It really was shambolic at times.

The budget amendment, concocted by the four opposition groups, was lost by 20 votes to 27, with 1 abstention and 3 absent.

The budget was carried by 28 votes to 12, with 8 abstentions. I really do not understand why virtually all of the independents in the chamber chose to abstain - I consider that councillors are elected to make decisions, not suffer from collective ambivalence over the year's most important decision.

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