BY COUNCILLOR ANGELA WILKINS, LEADER OF THE LABOUR GROUP
Bromley Conservatives always vote purely on party lines. So I knew that the proposals in our Alternative Budget weren’t going to be voted through when the council tax increase and budget were decided at the council meeting last night (Monday 25 February). And this was despite our budget being fully-costed and many of our proposals representing a cost-saving.
So why did we bother? In truth, out of frustration – not only with the devastating cuts forced on councils by central government but rather, by Bromley’s Conservative-run council’s approach. For yet another year, myself and the other Labour Councillors are frustrated by Bromley Tories’ record of mismanagement and myopic policy making which sees our costs spiralling whilst our services decline.
We know another way is possible. Labour councils across London are delivering better services, safer communities and cleaner environments – all whilst still balancing the books. Our fully costed Alternative Budget shows how we could do this in Bromley.
We have developed a number of specific proposals: some are off-set by alternative savings, others would actually save money. Together, they add up to a different vision for our borough. Our budget takes a creative approach aiming to do more than simply balance the books (vital though that is). This is a set of policies that would deliver a return-on-investment that could be felt by our local people and communities, as well as the accountants.
But perhaps more importantly, Labour would bring an end to the short-sighted and costly commissioning errors our Conservative-run council has made repeatedly. They are so focused on driving costs ever lower that they have forgotten that cheaper does not usually mean better value.
This meant £1.4m was wasted in the mess they made outsourcing rubbish collection; £7.5 million was needed to return Bromley’s Children’s Services to an adequate standard after a cost-cutting ‘reorganisation’; and £10m of our local tax-payers money went on an HMRC fine due to the Conservatives’ ideological refusal to give contractors their proper employment status. By contrast, Lewisham’s Labour council is bringing staff back in-house, which gives them better terms and saves the council money by cutting out the middle man.
The direct human impact of the cuts-at-all-costs culture is too easy to forget. One of our Labour councillors recently supported a local disabled man who had had his care package unlawfully reduced by 60%. It was reinstated in full when challenged, but not before he had gone through considerable stress, worry and suffering without the support he needs and is entitled to.
My hope was that Bromley’s Tories would put people in Bromley first, and adopt our sensible, creative and fully costed proposals. This was the fourth year we have proposed our Alternative Budget and the fourth year that residents will have to pay more council tax and get less in return.
Bromley could, and should, be so much better and fairer for all”