Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Monday 7th March 7pm

Full Council – Budget

The main function of this Council meeting was to debate and approve the budget for 2011/12. There was a small contingent of protestors from the GMB outside one of the entrances to Civic Offices as budget setting was proving controversial across all local authorities in the light of cuts making headline news.

Councillor Drage set out our key philosophy in setting our budget in these straightened financial times: protect the vulnerable, see the voluntary sector as a key ally in delivering efficient services rather than slashing their funding; continue to provide the services that residents value; and seek new ways of working that will deliver efficiencies, including through shared services with other authorities. Cllr Drage highlighted that we were well prepared for the budgetry pressures as we had started our programme to transform and innovate services 18 months ago.

In my speech I talked about the Sutton approach, “…we understand that it is the things you can’t count, that often are the things that really count. It is not what a service costs, but what that service delivers.

It is not how much someone is paid, but how they do their job.”

“So when we are faced with making the biggest budget cuts we have ever known, we haven’t taken out the red pen and slashed everything that doesn’t produce a profit, no, this council has looked at what really counts for our residents, and looked for innovation, and transformation, to enable us to continue to provide the services that our residents value.

And this is an ongoing process, rather than a knee-jerk reaction, to ensure that we remain fit to meet the challenges of the future.”

I also highlighted how we will be investing more in our partnership working, to jointly deliver improved outcomes for residents.

Finally I praised the work of council staff for helping to deliver that innovation and transformation to enable us to protect the services residents value despite the threat of job losses hanging over them. And I expressed my anger at the attacks they are receiving in the press and from central government:

“The continuing attacks on local government are unfair, and undermine the work that our employees do.

We are forced to let good people go, because of the centrally held assumption that all councils are wasteful and inefficient. Well that is not the case in Sutton.

 Mr Pickles seems to forget that Councils deliver services, not dictates,

our staff deal with people, not just paperwork.

And whilst we are doing everything we can to protect jobs, it is unavoidable that hard working, committed staff will lose their jobs.

Because of that assumption, that wrong assumption, that all councils are the same.”

 Also debated at the meeting was the proposal to prepare an outline business case for moving all staff into civic offices and disposing of excess council property with Councillor Richard Clifton making the argument succinctly in his speech.

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March 23, 2011 - Posted by | Committee Meeting

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