Wycombe deserves better than hopeless Tory budgets

At yesterday's council meeting, where the annual budget was presented, Cllr. Rafiq Raja called out the local Conservatives on their constant mismanagement of Wycombe's budget and the real affect it is having on local people.

Here is his full response to yesterdays budget:

"For any local government organisation, the financial plan is supposed to support the plan for delivering services to residents and the community. The budget should serve the district council, not vice-versa.

 

The officers who have been instrumental in producing the budget have to be congratulated for having produced a balanced budget within the parameters given to them. Naturally, the political direction must come from the party in charge and lest we forget “the budget is based on information and assurances from members and the senior management team”. Moreover, an explanatory note attached to the draft budget to the cabinet, says clearly that “the council faces a significant challenge in continuing to deliver a balanced budget and will either need to implement significant income growth policies or service reduction” so you have it in a nutshell!

 

The creation of the new unitary system of local government is no doubt going to ensure that some of the estimates are going to be wildly out of synch; the budget is just a ‘fire fighting’ exercise.

 

So, yes, we have a balanced budget and ‘earmarked reserves’ of over £36M but where is the overall reference to the ‘big picture’, for societies are judged not just on what the majority of the people attain but what the minorities have to endure.

 

We certainly live in an affluent part of the country and we are repeatedly told that we are doing very well.

 

So after years of Conservative control at County and District levels, what do we see?

 

  1. In our prosperous part of the country we have pockets of deprivation, for example, a third of children in the East side of Wycombe and Castlefield and a quarter in Bowerdean live in poverty. These are not my figures but produced by the Centre for Policy studies.

     

  2. The Conservatives boast about excellent schools and many support the extension of the Grammar schools. Yet they pay little attention to the educational attainment gap, between the different socio economic groups, which continues to be one of the widest in the country.

     

  3. Indeed, the school system is practically dysfunctional, given that upper schools are going to have reduced funding imposed upon them as a change in the funding formula.

     

  4. A few developments for affordable housing have been undertaken, but who can afford to buy a place in Dawes Hill? There is no mention of any programme to offer affordable housing to people on lower incomes or the young.

     

  5. Many of the roads and footpaths in Wycombe are in a pitiful state and it is not easy to get even street lights repaired, without people having to email the relevant people and then act as progress chasers.

     

  6. We have already heard about the ANPR fiasco, which  has cost a tidy sum in lost revenue for WDC.

     

  7.  There is no enforcement of traffic parking rules and as a result commercial vehicles and cars are parked on footpaths and verges.

     

  8. The people of High Wycombe yearn for the town to have its own A & E, but no one is listening. Less charitable people than me believe that it is because no cabinet member represents a Town ward?

  9. You may also have seen (in last week’s BFP), which reported the   “Council’s broken record over homelessness crises”. It is reported that residents and homeless charities fear that WDC has resorted to ‘insidious measures to force people out of the town’s multi story car parks as temperatures plummeted below zero. Apparently, loud repetitive music is being played into town centre car parks in a bid to drive vulnerable rough sleepers onto the streets. So is this the compassionate side of the Conservative party at work? Why some of the reserves cannot be used to help such small but vulnerable groups is difficult to comprehend. Yet we are quite happy, as a council, to pay our share of £25K for the commissioning of the Unitary Authority report of our choice.

     

  10.  You may also have noticed that there are a number of empty and boarded up shops and offices in the town, go to the Chilterns Centre or walk between the White Hart Street entrance to the Eden shopping Centre and Oxford Road; what does this tell us about the state of the business in the Town?.

     

  11.  We were told that there was consultation with the business community about which way the unitary authority debate should head but this democratic luxury was not offered to the residents, who are going to be affected and will have to pay for it.

     

Mr Chairman Since it is clear that this council has no plan for sustainable delivery of key services, this financial plan is effectively meaningless, it is just a set of numbers."



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