Having recently won control of Cambridge City Council Labour now have the right to get on with things that they promised. And so they should.
Following a number of years of Lib Dem complacency, Cambridge is in need to a new broom. I confess it is not the new broom that I would like but a new broom it is.
Labour’s proposals are going to do what they said they would and the proposals are pretty consistent with Labours approach to running any organisation. So no-one can be shocked or not get what is expected.
My first impression is that the proposals will add significantly to the cost of running the council:
Reversing closing the pet control service,
Pumping £500,000 into supporting poor residents,
Recruiting a living wage officer,
Recruiting a water meter officer,
Recruiting a Chesterton coordinator,
Setting up a letting agency,
Doubling the fencing repair budget to £200,000,
Not evicting tenants if they don’t pay rent,
Doubling the size of the enforcement team to six,
Increasing dog warden post to full time,
Improve maintenance of public spaces and parks.
This is all very familiar. The previous Labour government promised lots, delivered much, albeit a lot of it wasn’t necessary, and nearly bankrupted the economy in the process.
So the big question is how are Labours plans to be paid for?
Now, it is perfectly possible that the previous Lib Dem administration wasted money and efficiencies can be found. In fact we know that the Lib Dems had a very poor record of managing the finances. But it seems unlikely that sufficient savings will be found to pay for this explosion of spending.
It seems Labour are to cut funding for training staff. Nothing too difficult to achieve in the short term but this is likely to have consequences for the long term. New accountants staff not being trained on the accounts set up is not good.
A large chunk of the spend seems to be coming from a fund the Lib Dems set up to mitigate the impact of the A14 upgrade.
This fund is interesting. The A14 upgrade scheme required local authorities to contribute something from the expected increase in “value” as a result of the upgrade. This is a mixture of land value rising, rates increasing and improved economic activity. Hard to estimate accurately but in principle those nearest to the A14 improvements would pay more with other counties paying less.
The Lib Dems refused to contribute instead allocating money to this A14 mitigation fund. If Labour are to raid it to pay for their spending plans and they say they still support the A14 upgrade how are they going to contribute?
Given this rise in spending, with little cut backs elsewhere, I am guessing we will be seeing significant council tax rises for some time to come.
The other worrying aspect to the Labour proposals is the underlying feeling of it exerting more and more control over peoples lives. More control orders, robust enforcement of the law, pressure on business to apply the living wage, enlarging the 20 MPH scheme, setting up letting agencies to manipulate the market and persuading retailers to only stock “approved” products.
I have no doubts that some of these “control” activities are aimed at real problems but ………….. I worry when an administrations first instinct, in its first few days in office, is to seek to control.
But it is Labour I guess so we should not be surprised.