“We’ve got lots of questions about the budget – but we’re not going to ask them….”

Cllr David Leaf, Cabinet Member for Resources, writes about the annual Council budget is prepared over many months, and notes that, once again, Labour Cllrs have chosen to sit on the sidelines.

blendon - leaf, o'hare & wildman

Putting together an annual budget that will invest over £300million to deliver a range of services for over 200,000 people isn’t something that happens overnight. The work on the new 2020/21 budget began during 2018/19 and the work for 2021/22 is underway now.

Budget planning happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – just as one element appears to be finalised, we then receive new information about Government funding or the costs of our contributions to London-wide services that changes everything.
The number of adults in need of social care or vulnerable children who need protection can change suddenly and that has a knock on effect on all the other services.
My Conservative colleagues have been involved in planning our new budget for months, putting forward ideas, debating the proposals and working together to make them better.
As they say, “decisions are made by those who show up.”
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The first draft of our Budget was published in November In order to enable a three month consultation period where residents or anyone else could put forward alternative proposals or suggest other ways of investing the money.
What’s good is that there is always at least one well thought through idea that comes from this process, and often while they can’t be immediately incorporated into the budget they are taken forward into future ones.
The latest draft of the Budget was published by the Cabinet on January 27th – a 150+ document setting out each budget proposal and overall spending plans line by line for everyone to read in detail.
The Cabinet will make its final budget recommendations at the end of February before the Budget is set at the beginning of March.
But as always, the one group of people who refuse to engage at all in the budget setting process are Bexley’s Labour Councillors.
At the end of the three month consultation period they had failed to put forward a single budget proposal for consideration.
And at the Public Cabinet meeting on 27th January where the draft Budget proposals were presented, the Leader of the Labour Group actually announced:
“We have lots of questions about the budget, but we’re not going to ask them….”! 
At the end of the day, if Labour Councillors won’t take the budget setting process seriously, is it any wonder no-one takes them seriously?

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