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Government cash deal lets Labour council set expansionist budget

PUBLISHED: 21:33 06 March 2009 | UPDATED: 14:09 05 October 2010

Dear Ed, THE budget meeting at Tower Hamlets on Wednesday was the first opportunity to see how politicians face up to the responsibilities of running things during the economic downturn. The Labour-run authority is fortunate to get a generous financial settlement from the Labour Government which allows it to set an expansion’ budget with a small council tax increase

Dear Ed,

THE budget meeting at Tower Hamlets council on Wednesday (March 4) was the first opportunity to see how politicians face up to the responsibilities of running things during the economic downturn.

The Labour-run authority is fortunate to get a generous financial settlement from the Labour Government which allows it to set an expansion’ budget with a small increase in council tax.

The Tories have made great play of how they would save £643,000 by scrapping the council’s free weekly paper East End Life. But that is less than a fifth of their proposed overall savings. They plan to cut £1m from the staffing budget by freezing recruitment and cutting the pay of agency workers.

What this means in practice is posts which are difficult to fill would remain frozen and agency staff would be reluctant to cover those posts.

In reality, departments that would suffer would be Children’s Services and Care for the Elderly & Disabled. In the light of the Baby P’ case (child battered to death), I don’t believe residents would want the council to cut such an essential services.

The Tories would freeze recruitment in Social Services, yet want to employ more animal wardens to collect dog mess from the streets of the Isle of Dogs.

Perhaps if our Tories had a bit of political backbone, they could tell the dog owners on the Isle of Dogs (no pun intended) that it was their responsibility to clear up after their pets—and if they didn’t, the council would fine them. That way we would be able to afford the CCTV cameras the Tories want to combat crime.

Meanwhile, over in the yellow corner, the Liberal Democrats are all sweetness and light. They want different generations to mix and mend and repair electrical goods and want a zero’ council tax increase. They will pay for this by assuming a lower rate of inflation across the whole of the authority’s budget.

The net effect would be to reduce the amount the council sets aside to pay for wage increases and other contingencies.

The folly of this should be obvious. There is no reason to believe that in future years the Government would be as generous as this year. Now is precisely the time to build up the council’s reserves in case it is forced to make cuts next year or the year after.

As for the Respect Party, they followed the lead of the Lib-Dems and voted for their policy of freezing pay today, cuts tomorrow’ and bidding to out-Boris’ the Tories.

Stuart Madewell

Cable Street, Shadwell


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