Tuesday 9 September 2008

Campaign revisited

During the County Council campaign I questioned the wisdom of having one unitary authority for Northumberland, and doubted whether the budget was sustainable.

Four months into the new Council, it is clear that there is a real problem with both the structure (they are going to have one oversight area covering Berwick, Alnwick and Morpeth: that's just too big to provide a proper service to people) and the budget (reports suggest a £55m shortfall over 4 years). The local government minister has tried to pretend that the public's rejection of Labour in Northumberland was nothing to do with the forced change, and one of the Labour councillors has even suggested that the decision is reversed.

Sadly, the reality is its too late and the focus has to be on properly managing the integration and trying to manage the budget without damaging services too much. And yet despite the problems there has been no structured feedback to Council taxpayers about what's going on. I always suspected that the main focus of Councillors would be their own internal issues. And that seems to be coming true.

Two other comments on issues from the campaign:

- the payoff to the Council's ex-Chief Executive (who is the one largely responsible for pushing the unitary authority) is still being kept secret. He must have had something on the relevant Councillors who took the decision to award him such figures, especially as he walked into a new job almost immediately.

- the Seahouses car park. It's now finished; it took until the middle of the holiday season, as predicted. It is now harder to use, has fewer disabled spaces and no residents spaces. I don't know what it cost: I do know that whatever it was, it was unecessary and unproductive. A model for much local spending?


Penny Pincher said...

I don't know if it comes with age but I despair of modern politics. I can't see why we need so many changes and extra tiers of govt. In the SW we've had a regional assembley unelected and unwanted foisted on us tax payers and on top of that there is now talk of Devon having a unitary authority. HUH! with no additional costs. Just at the same time that Cornwall admits it is costing far much more than was envisaged to change. HUH again.

Penny Pincher said...

P.s. I've just popped over from St Billy's blogroll. Nice to meet you ;-)