CONGRATULATIONS AND JUBILATIONS WE WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW HOW HAPPY WE CAN BE…
There was rapturous applause for speakers, and so many pats on the back, you could be forgiven for thinking we weren’t watching Waverley’s Full Council Annual Budget meeting, but the finals of Strictly Come Dancing!
Perish the thought that the Tory-controlled council would engage in what one councillor described as “cheap election gimmicks” to pass a balanced budget, which preserves community grants; doesn’t increase car parking charges; builds affordable homes; makes efficiencies, and possibly sweeps Godalming High Street clean every morning before 5 a.m? Not forgetting the new Blightwells Yard development that will bring unbelievable riches and prosperity into Farnham. With lots of new shops and restaurants.
So that’s the good news. What about the bad? Well, council tax will increase year on year from now to the maximum allowed by the Government. Fees and charges are increased, everything from dancing to dying, and if you need anything from the planning department get your wallet out or butt out!!
Surely that warranted yet another round of applause?
Waverleys very own Umming bird puffed out her ample chest and reminded us all just how fantastic the Tories were handling our borough, and it was only safe in their hands – just in case any of those perishing little upstarts like Farnham Residents or the solitary Liberal Democrat and Independent get any ideas of something different.
Sadly in one sentence, we counted 15 – yes 15 Umms – from Leader The Potty One – but never mind, for a minute there we seriously thought she was going to get a full row of sixes and a standing ovation.
But then one little upstart – Cllr Paul Follows piped up saying:
”I always enjoy a full council. So many councillors I absolutely never see at anything else. Always nice to see what a genuinely ‘representative’ bunch we all are when we are together like this when the decisions we take impact so many…..
Cheeky or what- don’t you know Cllr PF – that they don’t have to rock up like you – because they are Tories and there are lots of them – Fifty to your Seven! But they are afraid of your popularity – and its beginning to show.
He raced through his 4 minutes believing he would be cut off in his prime saying –
“Like all councils, we face extreme pressure from government austerity policies and also from the near financial implosion of Surrey County Council – itself an exemplar of failure and mismanagement and a body that will almost certainly continue to push services down the locally government food chain without much of its funding – all the while calling it ‘Partnership’. Shocks we are ill prepared for.
The leader of the council mentioned caring Conservatives? We must have cornered the market on that scarce commodity nationwide then. We’ve seen in Waverley, as elsewhere. – an explosion in the use of food banks, use of the voluntary sector, in the need for debt management services, in poverty and in homelessness. One wonders how many members here have had to make use of these services or be in that position. And how a tax rise might feel to them if they were. It’s not the tax rise I have a problem with (though to me its need is not sufficiently justified). It’s the context that it sits in.
“Officers have done a fantastic job in trying to paper over the cracks – or more accurately the impending fissures – and for one more year prop up the shop.”
A tax rise to keep things just about as they are. Probably the last time they are able to do this – as the medium-term outlook beyond this year looks extremely bleak. As to electoral gimmicks – one might almost imagine that their current political masters have an election to fight this year and are banking on residents not looking beyond this decision and this year.
The portfolio holder has laid the groundwork for that likely future in his speech – and I do not believe services can be maintained without significant changes locally and nationally. I have little confidence in the income streams generating what is forecast. Opposition councillors Cllr McLeod and Cllr. Beaman have highlighted some examples of this.
Breathless as he waited for Farnham’s Gal to bring down the gavel – he thanked officers Graeme Clark and Peter Vickers for discussing the budget in depth and answering his questions. Thanked Cllr Beaman for his chairmanship of the recent scrutiny committee that allowed a serious and civilised opportunity for members to discuss the budget in depth. It was at this session that many of my questions were answered but concerns regarding investment forecasts fees and charges remain.
“It was also a shame that only around 25 of 57 councillors attended that meeting – of which I was one of only two of the 10 councillors representing Godalming wards that attended.”
Ditto the comment we made earlier Cllr Follows – silly boy! He continued to push his luck by asking questions – to which he received no answers. No change there then!
If I may put to the leader the following questions
Last year I asked the leader to demonstrate how you have engaged with your party at Surrey and more importantly in Parliament to challenge their approach? I ask you that again now. As many of you will again stand under its banner in May one assumes you otherwise agree with their austerity and local government policies?
I would also ask you to explain how, with considerable extra weight and reliance put upon our voluntary sector, also largely as a consequence of Conservative policy, you believe they will cope with making do and eventually with not enough?
How will towns such as Godalming benefit from CIL if they have already met their local plan targets? If they will benefit, how will you achieve that without essentially depriving other areas to do so?
And finally, I ask you to confirm the laughable figure of £34k for Brexit preparation and what it will be used for?
To conclude – For the lack of clarity on fees and charges, my concerns re forecasting and frankly due to impending national and Surrey related-issues that will almost certainly scupper this budget – it is my intent not to support this budget- it is premature and too vulnerable to events..”
At which point Fireman Sam Pritchard pulled out his hose and poured it all over Cllr Follows’ Fireworks.
A tad rich considering his attendance record and the fact his ward’s residents call on Cllr Follows for help.