Friday, 25 February 2011

Budget - my speech and info about cuts

I couldn't find a list of cuts in the online version of full council's agenda but you can see them here on p50 onwards as they were not, successfully, amended from those approved by the cabinet.  You'll see that children's services were particularly badly hit.

I spoke on the amendment to mandate the Chief Executive to find at least £500,000 savings(approximately 25%) from senior management posts and that once found that money to be ploughed back into children's services for schools and children's organisations working together in partnership.
My speech:
"This amendment repairs some of the damage of this short-sighted budget.  This Conservative-led administration is imposing the Conservative-led government's draconian cuts in a way that hugely damages key services.

Services that Reading's residents rely on.  Eric Pickles may approve.  We don't.

This is coupled with no imagination to modernise the council's management structure.  Even from the simplistic and flawed 'Your Money Your Say' consultation it should be apparent that Reading people don't want children and young people to bear the brunt of the cuts.  And lets be clear: under these proposals they are. 
This debate has avoided talking about the real services that people use, so I want to use some examples.
In our children's centres the parenting classes - which I have personal experience of - help us give the best start to our children.  They don't cost much but they make a big difference.
The nurseries that are currently making teachers and nursery nurses redundant.
In South Reading help is given to the most vulnerable children to make the move to school and to stay in education
Much of the support for children in the classroom with special educational needs
After school and youth clubs, we've heard a bit about them tonight, that give children a safe, positive environment for mixing and playing and learning - regardless of background.
The advice received by our teenagers at Connexions that help them in their choices in learning, work, preventing teenage pregnancy and promoting sexual and mental health.

There's been a lot of talk tonight about legacies.  These and many more are the legacy that a Labour government and Labour council have given our town.  All of this and more will be substantially reduced or stop altogether under these proposals.
These are drastic changes that reduce the chances for our young people to get on.
I am sure that all of us on the council want our young people in Reading to have more chances and better chances that their parents.  This budget attacks that hope.
The short-termism of this is profound.  Firstly of course the skills of our front line staff working with our communities will be lost to Reading as they take their expertise elsewhere or just plain lose their jobs.  Secondly and more  seriously the mess that this Conservative and Lid-dem administration will make will have long term consequences for our young people.
I want to share with you what an 18 year old said to me only yesterday*
"Won't it cost more in the end if more of us get pregnant, drop out of school or hang around outside the shops causing trouble?"
Well that 18 year old was right: prevention is better than cure - and it's cheaper too!
Our young people have only one chance at growing up, they need our support in making the right choices.
The Conservative-led government has no mandate for the choices it has made to attack our local services.  The Conservative-led council has no mandate for these choices it has made that attack young people's services.  We as a council need to stand up for our communities and our young people.  I urge all councillors to support this amendment.
Let's be Reading's representatives not Eric Pickle's poodles!


* I should point out that the same '18 year old' has since told me he has turned 19!

This amendment and the others proposed were of course voted down by the Conservatives and Liberal democrats.  I had actually thought they might accept it, since saving money in senior management (and the council in my view is becoming increasingly top-heavy, especially with the redundancies) which could then be reinvested in young people's services is surely a good idea.