Sunday, 20 January 2013
Council set to wipe out culture budget whilst continuing to fund unions.
Dominic McDonough is former Conservative Party Campaign Manager in North Scotland and a supporter of the Young Britons' Foundation (YBF).
YBF was founded by former Tory Youth Leader Donal Blaney and is a political activist group that offers a variety of training at home and abroad to young Conservatives.
Being from the North East I'm used to being surrounded by inept Labour councils, using local politics as a political football and ignoring the real needs of the people to score political points against the ruling government.
The current situation in Newcastle council is no different. Last week we saw an 'emergency' debate called by North East MPs to speak on the "draconian cuts" to Newcastle Councils budget. We have recently seen a budget proposal published which would wipe out the culture budget of the council, some £2million. This has lead to accusations of library closures and the closing of Newcastle City Hall, a major music venue that has hosted bands from The Beatles to Status Quo.
Being a culture vulture myself and having an artistic background, this surprised me but I agreed that key services must always be protected towards the arts.
This has resulted in a backlash from groups across the city, with the council blaming 'evil government cuts'. This of course totally ignores the fact that councils decide how they cut their budgets and the new powers they have to raise more money. It also ignores the perilous economic situation of the nation.
I have since received a reply from a Freedom Of Information request which has shown that in the recent financial year Newcastle council spent £166,124 on Union officials. These are union workers paid for by you and me to conduct union business.
Furthermore the council has recently voted to give nearly 3000 workers a pay rise at a cost of over £2 million to the council.
Is this right in a time when the council are blaming the government for cuts?
Newcastle and its neighbour Gateshead recently merged resources and ran a very impressive campaign to be capital of culture. Resources were shared and various departments merged. Newcastle, and many other councils across the country, must follow the lead of some councils who are now merging and sharing resources to get more for less.
Unfortunately this is not an exception. Councils up and down the country are blaming the government for cuts to services while waste is going on in front of them. Working for the council should not be a job for life, it should be like any other job, only existing if needed and you are only employed if you're doing a good job.
Many years of plenty have left an attitude of 'money is no object'. Unfortunately money is an object, councils must realise that the money they bring in is our money and must spend it responsibly. They must get more for less and cut the huge waste that I have outlined above.
Councils do not need to cut vital services, simply cut the waste that has accumulated over years or even decades.
The blaming of the government is wearing a little thin.
You can follow Dominic on Twitter - @torydom
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