Thursday, 6 October 2011

Call in over Freeze of Locality budget

This the main bulk of my intro at the Overview and Scrutiny call in.

Of course the labour-heavy members did not agree. A couple of them also behaved in a juvenile, jeering way during proceedings but the outcome was expected.

It was great to get things off my chest. I maintain that they are so wrong to freeze the budgets for our wards to keep back in case something that is responsibility of SCC, is needed. where will that end? What else will Ellesmere want to pay out for next time? Ipswich residents need to know the truth behind Labours deception over libraries.

Anyway, read below and comments gratefully received.

I welcome this opportunity to have my say over the freezing, by this labour administration, of the new IBC locality budgets for ward councillors, before they were even accessible,. This decision to freeze was made in case money was needed by SCC for libraries and school crossing patrols in Ipswich.
I truly believe that this course of action by executive was wrong on so many levels namely
That the decision is disproportionate to the problem especially for this year.
That there are not sufficient reasons explained, to freeze the budgets.
Alternative options were not considered properly
It is based on Innacurate and misleading facts
No proper consultation took place
The executive report 13th September acknowledges that the funding of school crossing patrols is no longer an issue and so we are left with the issue of libraries.
I will start with the no consultation, as this is easy, quick and a no brainer. Submitting something in a leaflet, based on misleading information, for an election manifesto is not the same as proper and accurate consultation. To suggest such is a passive stance. As far as I am aware no one was asked if this was a good idea especially not from the small organisations and community leaders who were looking forward to having this money. I have been approached by more than one charity about applying for funds in this new pot.
As far as any consultation about libraries, I think SCCs report, which is in your papers, merits much more respect.
Based on inaccurate facts. When I asked councillor Ellesmere in council why he was persuing this, even after Mark Bee assured him the libraries were safe he said, I do not trust him to carry it out’. Quite frankly I find this insulting especially when in same meeting coun Ellesmere showe, in a very colourful way, that he believed the story of an ex councillor, heard 3rd hand through the local paper. No wonder people mistrust politicians when politicians themselves admit to such a thing. I wonder, now that Mark Bee’s  assurance has since been printed in the Evening Star on Saturday, that it is to now be believed by the leader of this council?
The SCC press Release on 20 July states
Following a four-month public consultation in which 5000 people expressed their views, Cabinet have supported an approach that will see libraries transferred into a central organisation.
Three options for the central organisation will be considered and a final decision made by Cabinet at its meeting in November.
The following three structures will be considered:
• An in-house business unit similar to the Schools Library Service.
• An external, but wholly council-owned, company.
• An independent company managed by the county through contractual arrangements.
The Cabinet voted unanimously to accept the report. Although there will be further debates at the end of the year, it is expected that the new structure will be in place by April next year. 
Nowhere in this report or press release did it say as an option, to close a library or libraries. Both cllrs Judy Terry and Mark Bee have repeatedly said the libraries are safe and I believe labour admin have used scare tactics to get votes.  The library review was needed following the failings of the previous labour government and SCC have come up with good alternatives.
My accusation that Alternative options not considered. In the executive report it shows that only 24k would be offered by labour for this years library costs, whilst the councillors locality budgets totalled 240k. so why increase reserves by 216k. Is this the same party that showed disgust at the size of the last administration’s reserves, stating that it should be spent on Communities, not held back? And yet they are now ADDING to the reserves.
Why not freeze just part of the locality budget this year and allow 90%. This would have given us 4500 each whilst still maintaining library budget. Once SCC clarified everything in November then the following years budget could have been discussed and decided.
The misleading facts continue when you see that total library costs for SCC is £ 2,029,675 and labour have kept back a miserly 96k for just 3 libraries which cost a  total of £ 295k, as per their submission to SCC. This still left SCC to find 200k. How does this help save the libraries?
(Rosehill £ 38k
Stoke £ 17.5k
Westbourne £ 40k)
I bet the residents of Ipswich are not aware of such paltry amounts that are not adequate to help SCC save the libraries anyway. The Total amounts to about 4% of the total cost of libraries! Anyone can put on a magicians hat and hold a magic wand. It just means that you are creating an illusion.
More good would have been done helping small communities than this ever could and actually I am being very generous, because this is presuming that the libraries are in danger, which they are not.
Labour have done nothing to engage in the libraries constructively but came up with some half botched notion in the eleventh hour in which to get publicity for the elections.
It is my job here to let residents know differently and that we in the conservative group know these tactics all too well.
The locality budgets came about because capital expenditure in the area forum and community improvement funds were difficult to spend. We passed in full council a way to make the pot good for revenue applications and now this has been cruelly taken away. We might as well forget about them for this year as time straints make this as good as dead.
I think in summary it is obvious that the so called solution was disproportionate, unnecessary and premature. What it IS though is party politics, deception, sleight of hand and detrimental to the residents of Ipswich. I also believe it was a way to sabotage the Big Society idea or as I like to now call it Big Community idea.


  1. I partly agree with you in that it seems that libraries *are* now broadly safe at least in the short term however I fear you mis-represent the way this happened. I don't live in Ipswich so the arguments over the locality budget of the Borough Council holds no interest to me but I was heavily and personally involved in library campaigns. What clearly happened (and I welcome this) was that the new Conservative administration under Mark Bee changed its mind and backed down from what was a potential massive closure programme.

    Reading this account it sounds like the much more considered plan produced in July was the idea all along. This is clearly not the case and is as mis-leading as you claim the Labour opposition to be but back in May when the local elections took place libraries *were* under threat. This might be one of the reasons you lost the elections!

  2. Thanks for your comment and yes, the consultation did highlight concerns. However Ellesmere made it seem as if he saved the libraries when in fact the amount of money he offered for this year was only 24k! This hardly covers the amount that was needed by SCC, nor did it warrant holding back all of the locality budgets of 240k. We did lose votes over this but I think Andrea Hill lost us more!
    appreciate your views.

  3. I think it is fair to say that people from all three main parties and from none *helped* to save libraries. Certainly Labour and Lib Dem "opposition" councillors actively campaigned but plenty of grass roots Tories opposed the plans too as did several MPs. Certainly I saw the campaign as against the Former Tory Administration rather than a political campaign against the Tory party generally.

    Oh and yes I am sure Andrea Hill did loose you a lot of votes!