08:26 Tuesday 11th February 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: Opposition councillors in Peterborough have spoken out at plans to cut services there. The authority has outlined plans for next year’s budget. We’ve talked about it many times. It includes cutting back on the money it gives to Children’s Centres and many other services. Labour councillor Ed Murphy was at the Council meeting last night. Ed, quite a heated debate was had over some of these cuts, wasn’t it?
ED MURPHY: Yes, it turned into an extremely interesting meeting. It wasn’t just the opposition councillors. Conservative councillors were questioning their budget as well. They were doing scrutiny. It was quite a good meeting, councillors doing their job for a change.
PAUL STAINTON: And what services did councillors want to protect in particular?
ED MURPHY: Well the recommendation on Children’s Centres was that more work be done now to try and generate an income from people that should be paying to use the buildings. We’ve got a meeting at four thirty today to look at this, and some efficiencies to try and reduce the savings required. It’s becoming quite clear to me now that these buildings are not going to close, because they’ve got to be there for health visitors and other people anyway. We just need to make sure the right budget heads have contributed. The other thing that came up was St George’s, the pool there. It was quite clear that councillors present didn’t want to see it close.
PAUL STAINTON: This is the hydrotherapy pool.
ED MURPHY: That’s right. They’ve basically asked Cabinet to look at funding it for two years while work is done to find a permanent solution. So that was quite an interesting one as well. And there was quite a lot of discussion about the savings on the brown bins in Peterborough that take your garden waste.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. They’re going to be charging for that soon, aren’t they?
ED MURPHY: Well, I suggested they might make savings by just emptying it less often, rather than charging for people. Because if enough people don’t sign up for the charging, it’s not going to make savings. It’s going to lose us money. And people may end up putting the stuff in the black bins or on the street, which ends up going to landfill, which costs us environmentally and in cash as well. So the nonsense in some of the proposals I think was dealt with last night, and we’re asking the Cabinet to look a bit more into these, and common sense. I hope the cabinet will do it. Usually the Cabinet just rush things through, but hopefully they’ll have a look at it. And then next Monday we’ve got a serious call-in specifically over the Children’s Centre decision. That decision was frozen last week, when they called in the decision anyway.
PAUL STAINTON: Councillor David Seaton at the meeting last night, Cabinet member for Resources who’s in charge of this budget said “the proposals were irresponsibly put forward. We have recommendations tonight that suggest we spend extra money, but nobody’s telling us how we’re going to save it.” So if we’re going to spend this extra money Ed, how are we going to save it?
ED MURPHY: Well on the Children’s Centres, work’s underway now, and I was explaining that, and Councillor Seaton acknowledged that I was one of the councillors that was coming up with ways of finding the savings. I think he was talking about the CLF funding there, and the money for St George’s Pool, where people weren’t identifying where it would come from.
PAUL STAINTON: Does anybody actually use that pool?
ED MURPHY: Yes. There are many people using it. I was staggered when I saw the statistics on it. And we’re looking at how we should be paying for it w anyway. We’ve got £6 million in reserve, so our budget’s getting smaller and smaller, our reserves are remaining the same. On the CLF, no, councillors didn’t identify where the money was coming from. But then there were three recommendations including votes from Conservative councillors. It got very confusing about it. So he was right to point that one out. But these are very very minor changes to the overall Council budget that we’re asking Cabinet to look at.It’s a fraction of a percentage. So I think it is achievable (UNCLEAR) can balance budget. On the other hand we could look at increasing council tax. Because if we don’t do it this year, it’s going to have repercussions in further years. And I know the officers have brought that to the attention of Cabinet members as well.
PAUL STAINTON: Labour councillor Ed Murphy.