This week at Crawley Borough Council will see the Labour Cabinet proposing their first annual budget since gaining political control of the Council last year.
There is a saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and my reading of their proposed Council budget is that this is a Conservative inspired budget, unless of course they are cynically only being sensible this side of the general election?
There will be a very welcome fifth successive year of a Council Tax freeze which will be funded by a grant from the Conservative-led Government.
I expect that fact will be omitted when Labour present their Council budget. I also expect Labour silence on the fact that this entire parliament from 2010 to 2015 will have seen no Council Tax rise at all, whereas Council Tax doubled under the last Labour Government.
The proposed Council Budget is balanced, meaning that the Council’s expenditure will not exceed its income. This is something that the previous Conservative Administration managed for the majority of our budgets. While Labour have managed to table a balanced budget this year, it is ironic that this was not their intention as their published Budget Strategy last Summer was to only hopefully balance the budget in three years’ time.
That recklessness was more typical of Labour’s economic illiteracy, which is why last summer when Labour’s new Council Cabinet presented their Budget Strategy, that I urged them to work towards a balanced budget this year so as to help protect services in future years.
Three key things have enabled Labour to balance the Council budget this year. Firstly, the previous Conservative Administration already made £8 million worth of efficiency savings (mostly opposed by Labour) which left the Council in sound financial shape for the future. Secondly, business rates are booming thanks to the Conservatives sound handling of the economy. Thirdly, the Council is doing very well with income generation thanks to the Government giving Councils more freedom to invest in property. Labour will propose the Council budget this week but will they give the credit to where it is really due?