Friday, 21 November 2014

The sums don't add up

Carmarthenshire County Council has launched its latest budget consultation, and you can fill in an online survey here.

Many of the proposals will be familiar to anyone who has followed the annual budget setting process in recent years, with the same old plans for cutbacks being reheated and served up, wrapped in public relations speak as "remodelling" and "re-alignment".

Once again County Hall would like to close one of two respite and residential centres for profoundly disabled children. This would save £200,000 over three years - roughly the same amount that the chief executive would like to be paid to leave us so that he can head off for exciting new challenges elsewhere.

Noticeably absent from the proposals are any cutbacks to the council's holiest of cows - the Press Office and "Carmarthenshire News", the latest edition of which features a bumper crop of pictures of smiling Labour and Independent bigwigs.

What is striking about this year's package of proposed cuts is how many of them are aimed at children and young people.

There is a whole raft of proposals which would make relatively small savings by cutting support for children with special needs, looked after children and youth services. There will be reduced support for the humanities in schools, speech therapy, home tuition, increases in charges for school meals, cutbacks in behaviour support, and, tucked away under technical services, removal of free school transport for children aged 16+ and a new £50 charge for "spare seat" bus passes.

£50,000 can be shave off here, £100,000 there, but right at the end of the section dealing with education comes this:

The odd thing about this is that while the council is saying that there will be a big drop in the number of children going to school in Carmarthenshire, it is also telling us through its Local Development Plan that we can expect a big rise in population and a sharp increase in demand for housing.


m1books said...

As a school governor I am both appalled and angry at the hacking away of so many areas that affect the education of our young people and their hard pushed families. Pupil numbers may have fallen but costs have not. Heating, maintenance, salaries, exam fees, the list goes on.
For anyone else who wants to have a rant about any of these cuts there will be a Public Consultation - Have your Say on Thursday 4th December 10.00-2.00 outside the Newcastle Emlyn Police Station. Please turn up and protest!

Anonymous said...

Same old merry go round of service heads playing with figures to deliver across the board savings across all budgets . Where or where is the political and corporate strategic financial plan clearly setting out what the priorities will be and be paid for given the Welsh Governments stated priority is the badly managed NHS.?
Asking which selected micro budget should be reduced or kept is a complete waste of time and purely serves as a tick box and the usual climb down for those areas which cause the biggest adverse reaction eg the annual rethink on cutting children's respite or youth services. If you add up the suggestions the amount in question amounts to a fraction of what needs to be saved over the next 3 years. The Council need to be open and honest with its population and
Clearly set out the big picture, the big decisions that need to be taken and its priorities over the next 3 years. Will it be protecting all front line services and if so how?. Don't waste our time or insult our intelligence by calling the current offerings "consultation". The council should take the lead and set out what the strategic fiancial options are together with the potential impact. Is it more potholes or less litter and dog fouling. Is it press and media or disabled children? Is it staff in county hall or home carers.? Those are the type of options. Why don't the council ask the public in that sort of format? I think the responses would be far more meaningful

Wavell said...

CCC really need to look closely at the levels of "management" they employ.
There are many many instances of duplication which is totally unnecessary.
Also Heads of Departments who have no idea of what is happening on a day to day basis.
Savings on many 100's of £1000's can be made here.
Been there - done it !!

Anonymous said...

Wavell's comments are spot on. But CCC is an officer-led authority and it's officers who are devising the cuts. Protecting senior management from pain will always be the motivating force. Strong political direction is needed, but that's been in short supply in recent years. So the most vulnerable, an easy target, will bear the brunt, as usual. Never has a huge Press Office been so irrelevant.