by Nigel Bakhai on 13 July, 2010
Please find below details of my maiden speech to the July 2010 Council meeting on the subject of the new corporate plan.
Thank you Mr Mayor. I welcome the opportunity to speak about the glamorously titled new corporate plan for Ealing – “Making the best better” which lays out the vision of the council for the next 4 years – and while there is very little that anyone could disagree with in many of the objectives unfortunately this plan resembles a carbon copy of the last one with a few extra priorities thrown in just in case there were any subjects that weren’t covered by Making Ealing Safer, Cleaner Streets or Delivering Value for Money.
Not only does the new Labour group include three of the priorities from the previous Conservative administration but it seems they have even tried to remove any reference to the work of their predecessors. I have to say I found it particularly helpful, not to say amusing that a draft version has been loaded on the council website with the deletions clearly marked – so we can see in the section Making Ealing Cleaner that “climate change will continue to remain at the heart of the council’s activities” was changed to “will be at the heart of the council’s activities” just in case anyone mistakenly got the impression that tackling climate change began before May.
While we all no doubt support the regeneration of our town centres, delivering more affordable and social housing and everything else that is entailed in the section Securing Jobs and Homes, the title itself has a negative overtone of clinging on to what we have rather than being ambitious for Ealing’s future, and apart from a line about working with business there is nothing in the plan for trying to attract inward investment in the borough and encouraging new businesses to start up in Ealing which is likely to create new private sector jobs in the future. Or is it that the Labour group believes that only the council and central government can create jobs or homes in the borough?
The other new theme Securing Public Services is wide ranging enough to cover virtually any subject that the council delivers – in this case it is used to cover Adult and Children’s Services, Education but also for some reason Parking – probably because that didn’t fit neatly into any other section of the plan.
For me, the telling point in the corporate plan is not what is written in this report, but what is missing. In order to meet the objective of freezing council tax over the next four years, the council will have to make savings in the order of £50 million, and there is no meat on the bones in this plan as to how this will be delivered. My fear is that this corporate plan is just a wish list that makes every council service a priority and adds new additional un-costed spending commitments like the 24 hour Grime busters line.
With new themes added which are likely to dilute the council priorities there is no evidence as to how the council is going to decide which service or what spending is going to be cut. On Making Ealing Safer, for example, unless I missed it there doesn’t appear to be any commitment to continue funding the PCSO team which is due to end next March so where is the money going to come from to fund the new priorities?
While we in the Lib Dem group all bask in the wisdom of the borough’s foremost trained economist, given Labour’s previous economic record both locally and nationally, our job as a responsible opposition is to question how the Labour group is going to square the circle of delivering on this plan and turning Ealing into a world class council while trying to make savings and cutting services. That is why, although we support this corporate plan, we as a Lib Dem group are united in our endeavour to hold you to account on delivery of all these 5 key priorities as well as your pledge to keep council tax low over the next four years.Leave a comment