Councillor Kate Foale, Labour County Councillor for Beeston Central and Rylands reports;
Being in opposition is a constant fight to hold the Tories to account. We are working well together as a group, with fortnightly spokespersons’ meetings and Group meetings around once a month.
The County Council budget
The Tories presented their budget to full council on 28th February. It was uninspiring and very thin on detail. Serious concerns include the raiding of reserves to a worrying level and a £20 million shift to highways, largely funded out of the adult social care budget with £1 million also taken out of public health. The onslaught on local councils by central government has continued now for several years and we fear especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our community who rely on our services. The Tories also put forward an increase in council tax and are taking the social care precept, making the overall increase in Council Tax this time to 4.99%.
The Tories brought a motion to full council earlier this year to give retrospective approval to The Sustainability Transformation Partnership (STP). This was introduced by central government to enable health and social care to work better together and reduce the amount of time people, especially elderly patients, spend in hospital. On the face of it it sounds like a good idea, and could work well. However there is a clear cost cutting agenda (some predictions suggest a cut of around £600,000 to the overall health and social care budget) and no local democratic accountability. This means that there is little to prevent the Tory march to further privatisation. The Labour group argued hard and voted against the motion. At the Health Scrutiny Committee on 27 March, the Tory Chair used his casting vote to prevent a joint City/County scrutiny of the STP. This makes it impossible for County Councillors to scrutinise health provision our residents use in the City. A report on STP governance came to Policy Committee on 28 March. It still looks very health led and our concern remains that democratically elected members don’t have a role in decision making on behalf of their electorate who receive the services.
Seismic testing (fracking)
Labour put a motion to full council asking for seismic testing to be stopped on land owned or managed by Nottinghamshire County Council. We were close to getting it through, but the numbers just didn’t stack up. We are keeping up the pressure.
Universal Credit and NCC grant aid
We put a question to the Tory committee chair at full council last time, asking them to consider the impact of reducing grant aid to organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureaus who are supporting vulnerable people, especially those about to get hit by the roll out of Universal Credit. The response was weak and woolly, and the Tories have not yet published a budget for Grant Aid. Broxtowe CAB produced a really good report on the impact of the roll out of Universal Credit. I did a press release highlighting concerns and got a couple of radio interviews.
At the March full council meeting we supported a motion asking for Universal Credit to be halted while the concerns were addressed. We were successful in adding an amendment to highlight the devastating effect of the rule change that means that school age children (apart from infants) in families in receipt of UC and earning more than £7,400 would not now get a free school meal. It was a lively and at time acrimonious debate. The Tories either said it was down to ‘central government’ thereby ducking any responsibility, or accused us of ‘weaponising the poor’ (Ben Bradley MP) and ‘scaremongering’. We WILL keep up pressure on this. The impact on already disadvantaged people is devastating. The roll out in Beeston will begin in October.
All committee reports can be found Here
We are really concerned that the Tories are planning to close many of our Sure Start Children’s Centres. They refused to promise they would NOT close any at full Council in September and in a report to Children’s Committee in March took £1 million out of the children’s centres budget, changed the core offer and announced their intention to make more use of volunteers rather than highly trained professionals to deliver services.
I visited the Beeston North Childrens Centre on 27th March and was made very welcome: there is some great work going on with some of our most vulnerable families.
Safe cycling along the tram route
I met with two members of Pedals recently with Greg Marshall when we did a walk along their proposed cycle route, which would run along Factory Lane, through Wilmot Lane and then along Barrydale Avenue. It is clear whenever I meet with cyclists that safe routes for them were far from a priority when the tram was built. We will all do our best, Greg at the Borough Council and me at County, to address the very legitimate concerns – but the competing problems of working with developers and finding money from highways when money is so tight, not to mention the Tories’ lack of interest or support may scupper it.
Canalside Heritage Centre
There are a number of events coming up, they have a Facebook page that gives the latest. I’ll have a plant stall there on 10th June, and the garden at the Canalside is going really well with bees now also installed!
This is only a snapshot, I am always happy to hear your thoughts and concerns, by phone, or email. I am not brill at social media, but do post reports from time to time on my Cllr Facebook page and occasionally tweet Follow @katefoale Email: Cllr.firstname.lastname@example.org