Don’t play election games with Council finances

I was surprised and disappointed to see that Council Officers had drawn up budget plans for the County Council which included the option of bringing forward spending cuts so that none would occur in 2021 – when County Councillors are next up for election. Doing this would mean Norfolk residents bearing an extra £40 million of cuts. I raised this at this month’s meeting of the Children’s Services committee – this is the news release I issued at the time:
Dr Edward Maxfield, Liberal Democrat spokesman on Norfolk’s Children’s Services committee today urged council officers not to ‘play the game’ of planning cuts around the election cycle.
‘Doing this could see Norfolk facing an extra £40m of spending cuts, just to help the ruling Conservatives avoid cuts in an election year.’
A paper put before the committee asked officers to start looking for ways of making substantial savings in Council spending. By the fourth year (2021-2), the Council would be facing cuts of £100m a year.
The paper sets out a plan for cuts year by year up to that point but it also presents an option of bringing forward savings so that there are no cuts planned in 2021 – the year that councillors face re-election.
‘If the cuts hit in earlier years they will be borne for longer and the hit on services will be greater. There is a target to reach £100m of savings a year by the final year of the plan – there is no plan to reduce that target if savings are delivered earlier so the end result would be Norfolk residents having to pay a huge cost for what would amount to an election bribe.’