As predicted, Cambridgeshire Lib Dems alternative budget, going by their press release, is basically that they are saving an additional £3.5million this year, £10.5 million next year and reinvesting it back in services in a way that creates them the best headlines. That is all on top of over £50m worth of savings the Council is already making this year (and more next).
They have spent the last year challenging and opposing every single cut, without offering any alternative. Now they say they can find more and reinvest it. The detail is not available for scrutiny, but it looks like they have taken a two year view and not five years, which gives them more flexibility to be creative. I suspect one of the things they will do is make savings from short-term spending and make it look like a long term saving. I also expect they will take savings that are already proposed and double count them.
Oh, by the way, they propose a 3.5% Council Tax rise next year (I predicted they would go over 2.5%). Not this year, presumably because they know they have elections this year and not next.
Again, as predicted, they have used "protects vulnerable" in their headline. Immoral and alarmist.
I am really looking forward to the detail, but that is not available yet. I suspect it will be provided as late as possible so as to minimise scrutiny (I challenge them to send it to me now). It is, of course, a budget that will never have to be delivered. Just as well.
The stuff we are having to do this year is tough - it's the toughest thing I have had to do in my ten years as a Councillor. But we have fought hard to make sure that what we do is fair and as reasonable as possible - but of course it has an impact. Cambridgeshire Lib Dems have deliberately set themselves apart from their National Party's position of austerity, responsibility and balancing the books in order to create local headlines.
It is such a shame, Nationally, Nick Clegg's announcement on Mental Health today was absolutely awesome.
NB: I am pleased to say that further clarification of central government's grant has identified some additional funding for Children's Services (it is not uncommon for this to happen), it means that one of our toughest cuts, to post 16 transport, does not need to be made.