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Friday, 30 December 2011
Illogan Parish Hub, the Problem with Tory Ideology - a Case Study
Before the Christmas break Illogan Parish Council set its budget and precept for 2012.
This was only achieved after a long and sometimes hotly contested debate. The underlying budget was basically flat compared with the previous year, which meant a saving in real terms. However, the final budget was increased considerably over previous years (+28.9%) because the Council decided to make allowance for the cost of the Illogan Hub project, should it go ahead.
The main thrust of the arguments (for and against the Hub project and therefore the 28.9% increase) were as follows:
a) The Hub project will deliver a much improved Village Hall faclity which will benefit the community as a whole and reflects the thrust of the research undertaken when the Parish Plan was created.
b) The project will provide new office facilities for the Illogan Parish Council (the first time the council has ever had its own premises). This will result in long term savings for the people of Illogan as there will be no need to rent office space.
c) The project, as a whole, will hopefully attract funding, thereby reducing the final cost.
a) In the current economic climate any increase in the precept is a lot to expect people to pay.
b) If we were to continue to rent an office then there would be no increase in the precept.
In the end a recorded vote was requested. I voted in favour of allowing for the project to continue and the overall result was 5 - 4 in favour.
The reason that I voted for the project and, therefore, increase in precept was that I believe that the project will be a big boost for the community when it is completed and will also deliver long term savings to the expenses sheet.
One of the things that we considered was postponing budgeting for the project until we were absolutely convinced that the technical and legal problems that face the project had been surmounted. We might also have made a smaller allowance now and looked to increase further in subsequent years.
For me these last two alternatives would have been preferable. What made me decide against was basically Tory ideology.
The problem that all Local Councils face is that in the future they may well face a cap on their expenditure by a Tory led coalition which believes that cutting all public expenditure is the only way to organise public finance. If we had decided to wait until better economic times or gone with a staggered increase then we may have found that we were unable to proceed with the project at all as we would have been prevented from doing this because of capping.
I believe that there is far too much 'short-termism' going on at the moment. If we want a society that looks after itself then we need to invest real capital expenditure in it. PFIs and all the other ways of keeping expenditure away from the balance sheet simply end up in a long term deficit in the profit and loss account. In other words a short term saving now results in a long term loss to our children.
I believe that we should try to do what we can now in order to help our children and grand-children - rather than saddle them with our debts.