Saturday, 20 February 2010
Kirklees Budget Amendments - Good, Bad and Bogus
So all can now be revealed. The time for amendments to the Kirklees Budget has passed. We will go the budget meeting next Wednesday with a Labour budget based on the financial constraints forced on us by this Government following their mismanangement of the economy. There are 3 amendments, the Conservatives, the Green Party's and the the Lib Dems. We have gained some things out of the budget process. In our amendment we have the extension of the free insulation scheme Kirklees Warm Zone for another 3 years. I tried to get them to rebrand it 'Green Zone' to avoid confusion with the Governments 'Warm Zone' scheme but also to annoy the Lib Dems (see previous posts!). Of course they weren't having it but the issue of confusion between the 2 schemes is genuine and will have to be addressed at some point soon. Not least because 'Warm Zone' is a brand that we have to pay for. There are also opportunities to bring new measures to the scheme free draughtproofing for vulnerable households, electricity saving measures such as Real Time Displays and Powerdown and deliver them on an area by area basis.
Other things we acheived were in the 'side agreement'.
We have a commitment to continue to support the core funding costs of 'Build' the body which provides training in skills for the building trade for brickies, plumbers and decorators until these are picked up thorugh supportive contracts such as Building Schools for the Future further down the line. This is exactly the sort of project we should be supporting at these times.
We also have a commitment to develop support for projects promoting local food producers in the area. This has been a strong theme for Julie Stewart-Turner our first Green Party Mayor during her year in civic office.
There is a commitment to come up with proposals for a free bus link from Huddersfield Town to the Galpharm Stadium possibly electrically powered. This would provide a link to all the sports and leisure facilities in the area and reduce the need for car travel at a venue which isn't directly served by Public Transport and where the car parks are often full at peak times.
Our big hope is that we will be able to establish a free solar panel scheme for private householders with the capital costs for the Council being met by the new Clean Energy Cashback being introduced this April. We are due a report in June on whether or not it is a goer. The Lib Dems don't like the idea of this scheme and didn't believe it was much worth pursuing. No doubt if we make it work it will be appearing in a Lib Dem leaflet as one of their initiatives. Bitter? Moi? You bet I am!
We have already established the principal of self funding capital for solar projects with the £5million agreed for solar panels for council buildings last year. Providing free solar panels at no net cost to the Council for private householders is more difficult but I don't think impossible.
So what of the Lib Dems Budget amendment? Well surprise surprise we have £2 million to upgrade the insulation of Council Tenants. But I hear you say 'Didn't they claim they had already acheived this in that scurrilous leaflet they posted in Almondbury in December?' (see December post 'Dem Fibs from the Lib Dems') Well yes they did. So they lied, it's what they do. More energy stuff from them £300k for Solar PV for community buildings, some additional monies linked to the boiler scrappage scheme and an energy advice project for the elderly. All good but there is nothing else! If you didn't know better you would think they were desperately trying to win back lost ground on the energy agenda. No matter, if that's the case then the Green Party has acheived more in this budget than simply getting our own initiatives passed we've pushed the other parties on or agenda and got gains for local people.
The Conservatives submitted an amendment it means their Council Tax is a 1% increase instead of a 2% increase. To do that they have further decimated jobs, services and cancelled anti recession measures, but they have the cynical 'We're cheaper' headline for their leaflets.
I'm definitely getting grumpier as I get older.