Sunday 30 January 2011

If Cambridgeshire's Future was Lib Dem....

Looking around a few Lib Dem blogs it looks like they are planning to take an alarmist line in order to scare Cambridgeshire electorate into thinking that what we really need is a Council Tax rise above 2.5%.  I can't say this for definite, but it certainly reads that way.

Actually, under the Conservative plans, Cambridgeshire County Council will not be raising Council Tax.  That is because the Coalition Government have lived up to the pledge made by Conservatives at the General Election to pay Councils the equivalent of a 2.5% rise if they hold Council Tax where it is.  So if, as I suspect, the Lib Dems go for a higher rise it will be a direct choice between residents facing no rise at all or facing a significant rise.

Their basis for this seems to be based on some alarmist story telling, which includes talking about vulnerable young people and adults suffering.   The trouble with having to make cuts is that it is easy to take specific headlines and spin them in a way that creates an alarmist story.  It would also be immoral to do that when you have full knowledge of a bigger picture that contradicts that view.  That hasn't stopped Cambridgeshire Lib Dems before so I suspect it won't stop them again.

So, as an example, they are already picking on certain headlines in my own portfolio and suggesting that these will have an impact on vulnerable children, when they know the context in which they are set.  In Children's Services we are going through a complete transformation.  We have protected front line social care, but are embarking on a restructuring based on a model used in Hackney which has resulted in less children going into care, which is both better for the children concerned, but also a lower cost to the taxpayer in the medium term.  Similarly, we have plans to provide a much more tailored respite service for disabled children, increasing our ability to respond to individual needs.  We have restructured our locality teams so that our Connexions service is focused more on young people who are likely to drop out of the system when they leave school and to drive up their preventative role in other areas- whilst this does mean less universal services - it totally contradicts any claim that our budget will impinge on young people who need our support most.  There are more areas like this, but I just want to give the broad picture.

As I said, it is easy to pick out individual budget headings and make alarmist comments.  But when you have had every opportunity to comment and influence, where you are fully aware of the whole picture, is that responsible?  Of course not - so when you read Cambridgeshire Lib Dems headlines, remember that.

There is, of course, the possibility that I am reading between the lines and getting it wrong, but I doubt it.

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