Thursday, February 24, 2011

Big Budget Day

Wednesday saw the agreement of 2011/12 budgets both at City Hall and Havering Council.

Greater London Authority

Boris presented his final budget to a full meeting of the assembly. He had noted our concerns about plans to spend £6 million on the 101 single telephone number for public services in London. He assured us that he would be reviewing the project. Having received this assurance, the Conservative Group withdrew that part of its amendment.

Political groups presented amendments that remained largely unchanged from two weeks earlier, with the exception of the Greens who wanted to spend £4 million on the Year of Walking. None of the amendments attracted enough votes to clear the necessary two thirds hurdle required for their adoption.

John Biggs lost his temper with the mayor, calling him a 'lazy liar' and a lot more before the chair proposed a vote to exclude him from debate - which was passed. Biggs is often casually rude but it seems to arise from thoughtlessness and I don't take offence. There is however something about Boris that gets under his skin and sometimes he really loses it. This was one of those occasions and it was the first time in its history that the assembly voted to silence one of its own members - not a very welcome precedent, particularly as the session was going out live on BBC Parliament.

With no amendments, the mayor's budget was approved by default, giving Londoners another year's council tax freeze, the third in a row - contrasting with Livingstone's 154% increase over his term of office.

London Borough of Havering

With riots and the police called to some council meetings, we were on the edge of our seats in the evening. However there were no protests and the meeting was very civilised.

Over the years Havering has become accustomed to being short changed by central government, so the council is used to introducing efficiencies and sharing services to save costs. The difficult budget was masterfully constructed by Cllr Roger Ramsey and his team of finance officers, working with the unions who therefore did not find it necessary to wave placards outside the meeting.

The Labour opposition didn't propose any alterations to the budget, although a couple of them did dedicate their speeches to polishing Gordon Brown's reputation, after young Conservative councillors made references to the dreadful economic legacy he had left.

The Official Residents' Association councillors proposed introducing free parking in their wards and paying for it by cutting special responsibility allowances and consultancy fees. This is pretty much what they do every year.

The Independent Resident's Association Group (yes, it really is like Monty Python's Life Of Brian) proposed spending £5,000 on a legal challenge to force more grant from the government, but this was disallowed by the Mayor because they had failed to identify where the money was coming from and £5k won't get you a cup of tea at the High Court these days.

With little else on the table the opposition groups congregated around the free parking amendment which fell to the overwhelming Tory majority. However there was some consolation for them in the Leader's announcement that several committees would be scrapped along with the chair's allowances (my own Partnerships Scrutiny Committee included). The Deputy Mayor would also have his allowance ceased, although he would still fulfil his duties.

The administration budget was approved, freezing the council tax at £1,505 for a Band D property.


Mrs Angry said...

Roger: I haven't stopped laughing yet after reading how that doyen of good manners, Mr Brian Coleman, was so upset by someone else's alleged rudeness.

As to your Havering meeting, sounds rather tame: come to Barnet and enjoy the craic: much more interesting.

Who was the architect of your town hall? Interesting building.

Mrs Angry said...

I feel obliged to answer my own question: Havering Town Hall, originally built 1935 as Romford TH, in the 'International Moderne' style by Collins and Greens, Grade 2 listed. Great building. Would you like me to answer more of your comments for you? Happy to help.

Didn't realise you were in Romford: my gt grandfather had a shoemaker's business there (really). Are there still any local cobblers in evidence, in or outside of the Town Hall?

The Fincley frog said...

Mrs Angry - in town halls it's nearly all cobblers!

Rog T said...

Mrs Angry,

It is interesting to note that both John Biggs and Brian Coleman are ex QE Boys pupils.

Being a FCHS old boy, I must say that they are not good adverts for our illustrious neighbours up the road.

(Note for anyone not familiar with Barnet. QE Boys is the Barnet top of the table boys Grammar School. FCHS is the local RC Comprehensive. I'd like to say that we used to go up the road and duff them up, but they usually ran away before we caught them, not that I'm advocating such atrocious behaviour).

Roger Evans said...

Mrs A, thank you for providing that useful snippet. 'International Moderne' eh, I bet most of our members didn't know that. Unfortunately the building has some shoddy extensions around the back and sides, but I keep them out of the pictures.

I don't want you googling 'Town Hall Cobblers', so I can tell you that there are no shoe shops or manufacturers nearby, although there are a few booths in the town centre where you can get your shoes resoled and have keys cut at the same time. Of course there are bound to be some ladies shoe shops but it is some years since I crossed the threshold of such a place.

Rog, I went to the Lawrence Jackson School, a large comprehensive in the North East. We had a variety of kids, some middle class imports like me, a lot of working class and a few bemused looking locals. I didn't enjoy it much...

Mrs Angry said...

Mr Evans, what were you doing a few years ago making a nuisance of yourself in ladies' shoe shops? Never mind: that's your business, and I am, after all, very broad minded.

Now then: Guiseborough is not the North East: that's nearly as far south as Watford. My mother was from Spennymoor, and my grandma from Gateshead: that's north east.

Oh, and my son goes to FCH: a really great school, and attended by some admirably politically minded sixth formers.

And now I see it's nearly eleven o'clock, which is the curfew hour in Havering, and time for all good councillors to get their horlicks and hot water bottles and go to bed. Goodnight all!

Roger Evans said...

Spennymoor wasn't very far from Guisborough. I went there once for the Young Rotarians Annual Dinner, probably not a typical Spennymoor experience. Passed through Gateshead many times on the way to Newcastle, but never stopped there.

We all thought that Hull was 'Down South' and that was North East enough for us.

Redbridge resident said...

There are, as we know, those who think "the north" starts at Watford whereas some of us know that it starts at platform 8 at King's Cross......

Seriously, though, having driven up the A1 to Scotch Corner before heading across Shap the road signs still indicate to "The North".

Mrs Angry said...

I find it hard to believe there were any Rotarians, young or old, in Spennymoor. My grandad used to belong to the select association known as the Knights of the Golden Horn, which actually was just an excuse for retired miners (remember those?) to get legless out of hours ...