As so many people have public sector spending on the mind as we approach decisions on next year’s budgets, I thought it might interest readers to know a bit more about the financial health of our Borough Council.
I am pleased to report that they enter the budget review with £29 million in reserves and Section 106 monies. They have been prudently keeping money for a rainy day. In 2010-11 they plan to spend £260 million excluding the ring fenced housing account. That’s 8% more than last year’s £240 million.
To help them do this the government is sending them £159 million in grants and business tax receipts, paying 61 pence for every pound they spend. The biggest single grant is the £103.45 million sent to run the schools.
My wish is to persuade the government that there need be no cut in the schools money next year. After all, total public spending will go up in cash terms again next year. Schools will be high up my list of priorities with hospitals and surgeries.The Council should be able to carry on spending over £103 million on education in 2011-12.
This year the Council is spending £52.5 million on capital investment, including new computer systems, safety works and school refurbishment. This is 38% more than last year. They plan to bring this back down next year, which is sensible in the circumstances.
The balance of the spending, the other £105 million, goes on a range of services and also pays for all the Council officers, the Partnerships, strategies, compliance and monitoring. Here the abolition of the government’s Comprehensive Area Assessment system should lead to useful savings, as Wokingham will no longer need to comply with all this. I hope the savings will be made by good personnel management, using natural wastage to effect the economies.
I want to see the local community through the budget adjustments nationally with minimum disruption. The overall figures are far less threatening than the blood curdling stories of 25% and 40% cuts. I just hope locally we can proceed without such alarms, and look at getting better value for money in a reasonable and sensible way. My constituents want local and national government to do more for less. They do not want lumps taken out of decent public services. They expect to see us in the public sector cutting our own costs, and succeeding in economising on the office overheads as others have to do in the private sector.