Scrutiny impact on City budget

21st February, 2012

As Chair of the Overview Select Committee I very much welcome today’s press release from the City Council announcing some changes to the budget that were put forward through the scrutiny process. The full proposals can be found here. It is good news that the budget will be increased to employ more than 8 permanent City Wardens, as originally proposed.  Scrutiny argued for the original 22, one for each ward, but any increase on 8 is to be welcome. Nearly everyone that we spoke to in the scrutiny process said how much they valued the City Wardens and what a good job they did. “It is one one of the best things the council has ever done, making a real difference to our streets and neighbourhoods” commented one contributor.

We also welcome removing the cut to work on preventing teenage pregnancy. Members were concerned that whilst we had made good progress it could be jeopardised by this cut.

The biggest scrutiny success must be the removal of the threat to our elderly persons homes.  This result is down to an excellent piece of scrutiny work carried out under the Chairmanship of Cllr Paul Westley. A great deal of evidence was gathered which demonstrated the flaws in the arguments for closure or privatisation. See here for more information. There is still to be some market testing to see if they can be run better outside of the council. However many of us are confident that the council will prove to be the best provider. We strongly support the city mayor’s commitment to provide significant capital investment to transform two of the homes into intermediate care facilities, which will enable people to live independently for longer.And that the council will continue to run elderly persons homes for at least the next 3 years. We all hope this will provide the stability our residents and their families deserve.

However it appears there is no movement yet from the city mayor on agreeing to freeze the allowances councillors receive. The freeze was, I recollect, unanimously supported by members of the Select Committee who voiced strong concerns that councillors should lead by example. At a time of huge cuts to jobs and service forced on us by a Tory led government, and two years of a freeze in staff pay it was not considered possible to justify paying ourselves more.

It is disappointing that many other scrutiny proposals it would seem have not been accepted. Aylestone and St Mathews libraries are to be closed and moved to alternative premises. Fosse Library will be reduced, as will be the fund to buy new books. The Network for Change will not get £10k to continue its valuable work with mentally ill people and we will not see the reinstatement of subsidised travel for post 16 FE students, helping them to get into work.

Concern was expressed by many members at scrutiny about the big increases in burial and cremation charges, but it does not look there will be any change in these proposals as they are not referred to in the press release.

The full proposals and any further changes will be debated at 5pm tomorrow in the Town Hall.

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