Well yesterday the Conservative & Lib Dem Cabinet “unveiled” their Wirral Council budget for 2011/2012. Labour’s (opposition) budget will arrive by noon on Friday the 25th February.
Next Monday (1st March) the full Council will vote on the budget, although with 41 (yes I know it’s 42 including the Lib Dem Mayor but generally he doesn’t vote as he’s supposed to be politically neutral as part of his office) “progressive partnership” councillors to Labour’s 25 24 (edit – I sometimes forget Cllr. Knowles had switched from Labour to Tory and the independent Cllr Kirwan isn’t still with Wirral Council) councillors, I’m sure even Labour can do the maths and realise Labour’s budget will be defeated next Monday (with no need for Budget Part 2 on the evening of the 9th March) by around seventeen votes.
Can you see which bits of the Budget are from the Lib Dem side and which from the Conservative side? Yes you can see “the seams” between the two halves as we continue to be two independent political parties with minds and policy making processes of our own. If you look really hard you can see the bits influenced by yours truly and others (for example the 4-year rolling programme for 20mph residential zones discussed last year by the party when Cllr Quinn was Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Transport) now carried forward by Cllr Rennie.
One Lib Dem policy coming into play is the pupil premium which means about £5 million extra for Wirral Schools to spend on children on free school meals, looked after children and service children. You should’ve heard the “wails of anguish” at the Wirral Schools Forum from headmasters/headmistresses from the more prosperous parts of the Borough when they realised £5 million would be spent on improving the educational chances of the most needy! Clearly Wirral is a place of large social divides and the extra money will be a welcome boost to the schools in Bidston & St. James.
So what may you ask is “in the budget”? Well, first to deal with the elements of the council tax that are made up by Merseyside Police’s budget and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service’s budget. Both Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service froze their contributions from Council Tax compared to last year (2010/2011).
Due to increased costs and inflation (as well as a high proportion of its costs being on staff), Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service will be cutting some jobs. Their Chief Exec/treasurer explains the situation in a self-styled “podcast” (I don’t think he quite knows what a podcast is but I have to give them a few marks for trying), which unfortunately with my browser Firefox either opens a blank black window or six video windows of him at once creating an echo effect so I’ve uploaded it to Youtube (which has slightly better audio quality than five echoes).
For the purposes of any copyright lawyers out there, as the work has been made previously available to the public (and still is on Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service’s website at this location), this is classed as “fair dealing” under s.30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and is being done for the purpose of news reporting (and making sure you can hear what the speaker says).
Quite why councillors on MF&RS left it to an officer to record a video (which is below) to explain the cuts is a mystery I’m sure my humble readers can enlighten me on in the comments section (or maybe I’ll just ask Cllr. Ellis, Cllr. Niblock, Cllr. Rennie or Cllr. Roberts next time I see them).
It sounds like sound quality was the first thing to be cut at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service! :P Perhaps next year they could invest £20 in a noise-cancelling microphone? The reference in the video to the Budget being set today is in reference to last Thursday.