17:07 Friday 29th March 2013
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[D]OTTY MCLEOD: Now, equality. That’s what the Labour Party in Cambridgeshire claims is at the heart of its Manifesto this year, ahead of the County Council elections in May. Labour currently holds just three seats on the Council. That’s out of a total of 69. Paul Sales joins me now. He’s the head of the Labour group in Cambridgeshire. Good afternoon Paul.
PAUL SALES: Good afternoon Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Now as a general question Paul, is this election .. does it feel different to those in previous years, given what a huge issue the economy is at the moment in Britain as a whole, and in Cambridgeshire?
PAUL SALES: Well it’s different in some ways, but essentially it’s the same, because we try to always fight elections on local issues. It’s a local election, a Cambridgeshire election after all. But the fact of the matter is that national issues nearly always prevail at election time. Going back further than I’d care to remember, it’s always some sort of judgement on the Government of the day. So in that respect it’s the same. But there are very significant local issues which we think need to be addressed.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Now in terms of those local issues, I’ve got a copy of your manifesto here and it’s called Labour’s Manifesto for Equality, in it you say you’ll push for more funding for adult social care, the living wage for all low paid workers at the Council, no more cuts to uniform services, more investment in public transport. Paul where do you think this money is going to come from? People’s council tax, do you want that to go up? Is that where it will come from?
PAUL SALES: Well it’s not a question of more money. It’s a question of how you use the money you’ve already got. And there are wide disparities in wealth, education, health throughout the county. And there’s not one single penny in the budget that we’ve just argued against, the Tory budget, the Conservative’s budget, that focused upon alleviating poverty and deprivation. Not a bean. They seem to view the whole of the County Council as some sort of business enterprise, without any element of it being a public service. So it’s a question of where you use the money.
DOTTY MCLEOD: A lot of people would say that at a time like this, where local government organisations like Cambridgeshire County Council are having their budgets cut, that it’s exactly the time to be looking at things with a slightly more businesslike attitude. Isn’t that the only way things are going to get done on a shoestring?
PAUL SALES: Things are going to be done on a shoestring, and certain aspects of the County’s activities should be viewed as a business. The whole of the higher tier of accounting and the management of vast sums of money certainly should be viewed that way. But when you’ve got a budget heading like Adult Social Care, which is 40% of the total budget, the County’s total budget of nearly half a billion pounds, then that’s needs led. A lot of that is needs led. You’ve got no control over the people who cross the threshold, who come to your door, demanding services. And you have to provide a service there. And that’s immensely difficult to manage. And i think that’s a service, rather than just a business.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But where is all the money going to come from?
PAUL SALES: It’s the same pot of money.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So you just think you’re able to use it better.
PAUL SALES: I think we’re able to use it better. I’ll give you an example. For instance, the Liberal Democrats. They proposed an alternative budget which had in it something like £8 million capital expenditure on improving cycle ways in Cambridge, in the city. Well £8 million goes an awful long way elsewhere. The Tories have got other items in the budget which we strongly disagree with, and we’d rather spend the money in a more people-focused way.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well at the moment Paul you’ve got three seats on the County Council. That’s out of more than 60. Are you confident of winning more seats? You did pick up a few at the City Council elections, Labour saw some gains from the LibDems. But of course if you can’t win any more seats on the County Council, then you could write anything you like in your manifesto, because you’re not going to do any of it. (THEY LAUGH)
PAUL SALES: We could write FLat Earth Manifesto. I agree with you there. But we haven’t. It’s our responsibility to fight deprivation and poverty. And as the Leader of the Labour group, you’d hardly expect me to say anything else really would you? And a great deal of the councillor’s work is done in scrutiny committees, and you can have a very powerful presence in scrutinies and hold the administration to account. That’s why we need to know what we stand for, and the sort of things we will be arguing for in that context.
DOTTY MCLEOD: That’s Paul Sales, Councillor Paul Sales, the Head of the Labour Group in Cambridgeshire. Talking to him of course about the Labour Party’s Manifesto ahead of the County Council elections in May.