Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Budget Consultation

Bucks County Council is asking us to fill in a survey pertaining to the 2010-2011 budget. These consultations always make me stop in my tracks: I would like to believe that we choose our representatives to local and national government so they could look closely at the details of any issue and use their manifesto to guide the decisions they make on our behalf. Instead we have glorified social workers who fear to take any controversial decision that might anger someone. Generally it is our fault; we constantly bash them no matter what they do and assume they are guilty of holding the worst human traits the moment we elect them. A better culture is found in Scandinavia where the general consensus is that the elected politicians have the good of the public as their rudder. Any parent will tell you that children live up to expectation. If we behave as if they are brilliant they will go the extra mile not to fail us. That holds also for adults in general and politician in particular. I suppose that one of the reasons for the attitude towards politicians is that people here vote for political parties like football fans choose which club to support – Loyal to the hilt with no relevance to performance.

Back to the consultation issue, one may claim that this is the best way for local government to do their research and that if it is not conducted many would complain their point of view was excluded. I generally agree with this. However, the consultations I endeavoured to respond too always left me feeling I did not have enough information to form an opinion. Take the consultation about the budget. To respond properly, I would like to see past budgets and actual spends. I would like to know the details hiding behind general spend heading and what the people working for the council think. In short, information only a County Councillor (or a good reporter) may obtain or have the time to look into. The only people who might respond meaningfully are already involved in public life or have an agenda to promote.

The way this particular consultation is designed is a neat marketing ploy: it seems BCC cares and you feel good as if you are participating. However, it would be hard to analyse as the questions are totally open. I hope the intrepid reporters of our free press will follow the budget closely and inform us if the consultation was addressed, whether the opposition scrutinized it, and whether the result makes sense.

Here are my responses:

On which of the county council’s services do you think we should continue to spend your council tax and where should we make savings?

i.e. where does more need to be spent and where should we make cuts

People will gladly point where more money should be spent but will be hard pressed to indicate what services should be cut. To identify where budget should be increased I will focus on where I think services are lucking instead of listing all the services the council provides in order of importance. Two items that need improvement are transport and employment:
Transport – there is a depressingly poor public transport service to the rural areas in Buckinghamshire. Just as an example there is no bus from Halton Village. Moreover, much much more needs to be done to encourage people out of their cars; be it cycling facilities or maintenance of public paths. It is the old Chicken and Egg conundrum: people do not travel by bus, cycle or walk because the facilities are near non-existent. Money will not be directed to these facilities because nobody uses them. Talk about lack of vision.
Employment – Even before the recession kicked in Buckinghamshire has been bleeding jobs. this is partly because the transportation environment is a prohibitive hurdle to employers and mainly due to lack of correct initiative. Now that things cost less, it is the best time to invest in infrastructure that will encourage high-tech employers to open offices in our county when the economy improves.

Where should the budget be cut: Where bad decisions have led to waste. For example the move to the new offices. Performing poorly thought through consultations that were doomed before they saw the light of day.

What is needed in your local area?

i.e. within a 15 minute walk of where you live.

  • An efficient shuttle to the Wendover and Tring train Stations.
  • An efficient (at least every 12 minutes) bus service to Aylesbury, Tring and Amersham serving Halton and Wendover.
  • Dedicated Cycle paths throughout the villages, safe enough for children to use on their way to school.
  • Extra cycle racks around the villages.
  • More Toucan crossings mainly on the Aylesbury Road, the High st. (opposite the Manor Waste) and most importantly on South Street near the new allotments and play area.
  • Better facilities for the Wendover Parish Clerk and her team.
  • The Library Room is overbooked and another such facility is required (as long as the rent is kept low)
  • More trees along the roads. e.g on the Manor Waste.
  • CCTV surveillance near the pubs and along the Wendover Arm Canal
  • A much more visible presence of the police and the PCSOs
  • Calming measures on the roads leading to the schools and probably turning these roads into a one way system.

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