It is rare for a budget setting council meeting to attract such attention. Of course this was the budget that was set to make significant cuts for the first time in many years.
We have all become used to ever more money being spent on our behalf by a huge range of organisations, the county council being but one of them. We must never forget that it is our money – the people of Cambridgeshire’s money paid in tax that is being spent. Well, the money has been reduced from government as a result of Labour maxing out on the countries credit card, our population is ageing and getting larger and we have the growing affects of inflation to deal with. It can not be right to spend more on interest payments on the debt than we spend on education.
The council has had to make difficult decisions to manage within the budget available. Some will tell you there was a choice to spend more, ignore governments demands for less spending and carry on regardless. As I write this, it sounds foolish which of course it is. A degree in economics is not necessary to understand that you cannot continue to spend without restraint. The Conservative ruling group demonstrated good financial governance and took the tough decisions to reduce spending.
The Lib Dems predictably took the different route and saw salvation in tax, tax, tax and more tax. The Lib Dems are almost without exception from the city of Cambridge, and surrounding villages, which is significantly wealthier than most of rural Cambridgeshire. Not so easy to pay more tax when you don’t earn as much. Worse still, if we had put up the council tax we would have lost a significant grant from central government so it would have been a double hit.
The Lib Dems presented an amendment to the budget which lacked substance, was not costed and seemed based on the the concept that they could be more efficient, in some way, than the current ruling group and then would nip out and spend all the savings as quick as jack flash. They had lots to say when ever a headline could be grabbed which I felt was disappointing. I would much rather had a sensible, robust debate on the significant issues within the budget but this was not to be with the exception of one or two items.
Labour, UKIP and the Green party all made significant contributions which whilst I did not agree with all the points made, were at least made with conviction. Interestingly their wrath was in the main directed towards the Lib Dems.