9:58am Tuesday 23rd February 2010
By Jack Cohen
Yesterday I had a night out. Well to be exact I went as spectator to watch the Barnet Cabinet debate their proposed Budget for 2010/11. Palace of Varieties it was not. I think there were two members of the public in the gallery. Council officers outnumbered the Councillors. Curiously none of the Cabinet members had their nameplates in front of them.
The atmosphere was decidedly down beat. The Leader of the Council read from a prepared statement. The Leader announced the Council is “delivering a zero freeze Council Tax “A couple of Cabinet Members shivered. For my part I tried to work out what a “zero freeze “means but I gave up when my head began to hurt The Interim Director of Finance briefly summarised the Council’s financial position. Mention was made in passing of the risks the Council faced and the threat to Capital Expenditure. Each Cabinet Member in turn then had their say. If any of them had any doubts or concerns, they were not saying. Mostly they wanted to congratulate each other on the amount of spending cuts they were achieving. One Cabinet member considered it “a neat trick” to be able to provide improved services with fewer staff. Indeed!
It was a neat trick also to avoid the “I” word. No mention, no reference, no apologies about the Icelandic Bank Deposits. It was there in the Officers written report but not one Cabinet Member was prepared to talk about the Icelandic Banks (well not in public). Perhaps that’s what the Leader meant by a zero freeze.
The Budget was agreed without dissent. We now move on to debate and vote on the Budget at the Full Council Meeting on March2nd. The Liberal Democrats will be proposing an alternative budget. Whether the Conservatives will back any of our proposals is doubtful. What is not in doubt is that the administration will be let off the hook as lightly as they were last night.
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