Roger Truelove: Reflections on Kent County Council Budget day

We have just had our budget setting day at County Hall. The meeting lasted from 9 30 to nearly 5 pm in the afternoon. It demands the most extraordinary stamina, especially as we all know it will make no difference. The set up is, the ruling Tories have already decided their budget. The opposition parties, of which there now four, spend the day putting their amendments and the Tory majority rejects them. It is a political pantomime, surprisingly followed by the larger media people in Kent.

The simple reality is that Central government financing means that the Tories have to cut £80 million. The whole Tory group are trained like Pavlov’s dogs to say that the cuts will not affect frontline services because services are being provided differently. This is incredible nonsense. It’s a semantic trick. You can maintain frontline services, of course, but less of them, for fewer people and to dubious standards. It will impact on many needy people.

And the Opposition amendments? Remember UKIP are the official Opposition in Kent. They put forward one amendment to cut £9 million public health funding from projects to counter alcoholism, obesity, drug addiction and smoking. It was treated with cross party derision and two of their own party didn’t vote for it.

The Liberal Democrats put forward amendments on early years intervention and Streetlights . We also had an amendment on Streetlights calling for them to be put back on with funding essentially derived from cancelling the Grammar School extension at Sevenoaks. That went down well. I had an amendment on potholes which the Tories sort of agreed without voting on the amendment and we also put in a bid for more apprenticeship funding.

Far too much of the day is taken up with people reading (not very well) quite long prepared speeches. It’s all on the KCC’s webcam. I can’t imagine any one watches it.

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