Friday, 24 April 2009

Time To Focus

The true impact of the budget is starting to emerge now, and it's looking bleak.

I'm no economist, so I'll leave the dissection of it to others, but there are two arguments afoot at the moment. The SNP state that £500m has been cut from the budget, whilst Labour claim that the Scottish Govt has more money than before at its disposal.

If, as seems likely, we are £500m down in Scotland, then tough choices are going to be forced on us. This level of cut would mean Angus Council's loss would run into millions of pounds. A substantial figure for a local authority which is obliged to provide considerable front line services.

For someone like me in local government, these will be tough indeed and we really need to be working closely with Holyrood to see what can be done. Likewise, the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster needs to be a bit more positive.

I missed FMQ's yesterday, but the coverage of it later showed that it was disappointing to say the least. Although it could have been the way it was edited, it appeared as though it consisted of Parliamentarians standing in a circle pointing the finger of blame at each other. The only excuse that wasn't used was the old "a big boy did it and ran away" chestnut. This isn't going to help, and we can't be in denial over the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in. Newsnight later on provided much of the same.

It's time to walk away from partisan politics at Holyrood. The parties need to get together and work with Councils to lessen the impact as much as possible.

With this level of financial 'hit' then the historic concordat may well be in tatters, and at Scottish Govt level, this will no doubt have a severe impact on any new policy plans that require substantial funding. Council's are already struggling to comply with their demands already.

The current mantra of the day is "efficiency savings", doing the same job to the same standard, but with fewer resources. In truth, this has been going on for years already and there may be less room for manoeuvre than you might think to achieve this, which makes the choices open to us even more stark.

Next year's Council budget is going to be hard to balance, so it's time to stop playing pre-election politics at national level, and time to start focusing on the job in hand, so that we can do everything possible to maintain the front line services that people want.

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