Setting the budget this time around has been extremely difficult. Why is that? Well for a number of years councillors were in the wonderful position of having more money to spend each year and were able to work with local people to work out how this could be spent. It might be a new cycle way, a new safety scheme for a piece of road or setting some priorities for the never ending repairs to our roads.
Now, it is very different. We are having to think about operating with less money year on year for the next 4 years. This is an unprecedented activity. What it means is that councillors will be making choices about what service is delivered, how it might be delivered more efficiently and what services will be reduced or removed. These are difficult choices and require competent officers and competent councillors who are prepared to make the tough decisions. Every time a petition is handed in demanding a service is retained the question must always be “so what service are you prepared to lose to make up the shortfall and would that be fair”. We must always consider the needs of ALL the people of Cambridgeshire not just the noisey, well provided for Lib Dems of Cambridge.
When the council is making cuts easy targets are presented to those who have a vested interest in trying to pointing out issues as if they are errors or faults. Our Lib Dem colleagues on the county council seem to have created an art form out of complaining. When ever they say more money should be spent on a service because it is unacceptable to make cuts, demand to know where that money is coming from. Do not accept a wishy washy answer about being more efficient as if they have invented the concept.
I am sure the council can continue to improve its efficiencies and I am in the vanguard of seeking them. BUT, since being elected I have seen no credible business sense from the Lib Dems. They excel at moaning and complaining but have little experience of actually doing anything, are unable to act in any joined up way amongst themselves let alone in the wider context and seem to allow high brow ideals to cloud practical thinking in this real world. The difference in views between the Lib Dems in Parliament, Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge City is marked. They seem to say what ever is necessary to attract votes which strikes me as opportunist and weak.
Budgets are about setting priorities and executing on them. I am proud that the conservative ruling party is doing just that.