Monday, November 24, 2008

Budgets, budgets

Hardly a glimmer of good news today. First of all a sombre discussion about the pressures that are looming on the Council's budget. How to continue to fund the extras that Stockton Council and other local authorities provide on the free bus pass for over 60s, the pass introduced by the government with a great fanfare but only designed to work after 9.30 in the morning. That's a fat lot of use if your hospital appointment is at 9 or even 10 unless you live very near to the hospital on a direct bus route. And of course that's only one example of when older people need to use a bus before 9.30. So Stockton and other Tees Valley councils decided to put money into providing a pass which works all day, every day But that costs money and these days with rising electricity and gas bills and falling interest rates the Council is in the same position as many households - it's belt tightening time. So what should we cut back on? Bus passes for older citizens? Social workers for vulnerable children? Road mending? Pavement sweeping? Street lights? Litter bins? Difficult decisions lie ahead and whatever is decided will hurt someone.
That was followed by a meeting of the Environment Select committee at which we had a presentation of a seemingly very good action plan to reduce the numbers of rats and pigeons infesting the borough - not a huge problem in most parts of the borough but visible and irritating in some parts. The action plan sounded great till we realised that it could only be implemented if there was a bit of spare cash to fund it - not likely in the present economic climate. So the chances are that it's going to be a tinkering with the problem because we can't afford the full blown action plan.
However, there's always someone worse off than me, as my mother would tell me. So, as the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights approaches (10th December for those who like to know these dates) I encourage you to support the campaign to help retired Gurkhas to have the same rights as the people they served alongside in conflict zones around the world. It's something that Liberal Democrats have been supporting for over a year now and it was heartening to see the High Court give a boost to the campaign last month. Let's get it sorted out by Christmas!

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