Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Budget is Set

After quite a debate tonight Stockton Council set its budget for the next municipal year, starting in April. There were two amendments proposed to the Cabinet recommendation. First of all, Ingleby Barwick Independents proposed using some of the reserves being kept for "pump priming" capital expenditure to add to what is already planned for spending on Romano Park. Although we sympathise with the people of Ingleby Barwick there's quite a lot being spent there and we didn't feel that it had more merit than several other possible capital projects around the borough. Certainly we would need a lot more information to persuade us than was on offer at Council tonight and we hadn't been given any prior notice of the proposal.
Thornaby Independents had given us warning of their amendment, mainly because they were proposing that money didn't need to be spent on the Cemeteries post which the Environment committee last year. They were proposing to save more money by not upgrading Christmas lights and a couple of other projects in order to spend over £1m on upgrading Park View Residential Home so that it can remain open. Whilst having some sympathy with their desire to maintain that home in the public sector we couldn't support an amendment which removed the post recommended by the committee I chair and agreed by Cabinet. The speech proposing the amendment was very clear and well delivered. But the debate became very heated and acrimonious as it progressed, and accusations were thrown around the chamber at high speed. For those of us not intimately involved it was an interesting debate to watch and listen to, and there are certainly some questions to be answered about the process of the scrutiny. Sadly, in all the emotion I suspect those questions won't be answered and no-one will be held accountable for the things which weren't done properly.

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