Alternative Budget Proposal to Council for 2012/13

Howard Sykes, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Oldham, last night made an alternative budget proposal to Oldham Council. In a no nonsense proposal to the full meeting of Council he said, “Budgets should be about doing what is best for the Borough and its citizens. We have called our Alternative Budget a ‘Citizens Driven Budget’, because it’s just that – a budget driven by our citizens.”

Howard continued, “We have listened to residents and stakeholders and addressed the issues that fill our postbag and e-mail inboxes; those things the public tell us matter to them most – especially litter/cleanliness, fly-tipping, anti social behaviour and potholes.”

“We therefore present our plans for the Borough, which will include additional investment in:

• A new swimming pool/gym/fitness complex.

• A pothole repair summer blitz programme and the speed up of the local roads repair programme.

• A litter enforcement pilot – not just to address littering and dumping problems, but to look at prevention through education and bringing about cultural change.

• Increasing the number of street cleaning operatives by up to a further eight.

• Additional enforcement officers – not only overturning the cut planned by Labour, but strengthening the enforcement team with a further seven officers.

• Keeping the Central Library and Gallery open on a Sunday.

• Additional support for community operated Community centres.

• Additional youth provision in areas of low provision and/or high levels of anti social behaviour.”

“Clearly the opportunities for investment now available in 2012 didn’t exist in 2008 when the Liberal Democrats inherited a Council on the verge of special measures.The situation was desperate and action needed fast – we put in place an action plan to turn the Council around, get the budget under control, pay off debt and enable the Council to look to the future with optimism. The Liberal Democrats delivered on that plan and within three years Oldham Council was officially financially sound and receiving “industry” recognition – twice in succession were finalists for Most Improved Council of the Year in 2010 and 2011.”

“But, despite those successes and a record of competent financial management which continues in our Alternative Budget before you tonight, I fully expect Labour to deliver the usual lecture on how the budgets are very similar in percentage terms etc. For the record, in 2009 Labour couldn’t be bothered with an Alternative budget and when they finally produced them in 2010 and 2011, more than 98% of their plans mirrored ours – the difference being achieved only by riskier savings targets.”

“Already in less than year, there are clear signs that Labour are back to their bad old ways, they are on a borrowing spree which will see future generations pick up the tab for overwhelming and crippling Council debt! We have dirtier streets, important performance targets being missed and, only last week, Oldham emerged as the 6th unhappiest town in the Country.”

Howard concluded by saying, “I urge all my councillor colleagues to put aside tribal politics, do what is best for our Borough and support the Alternative Budget.”

The proposal was defeated by the Council’s Labour majority, but was supported by Conservative Councillors Hulme and Martin, the other three Tory councillors (Hudson, Sheldon and Barker) voted with Labour.

Got a view? Have your say by leaving a reply on this webpage.

Lib Dem Alternative Budget 2012/13 Final Proposals Published

“The thinking behind the Liberal Democrats’ alternative budget could not be more straightforward”, says their leader, Howard Sykes. “The public have told us again and again what they want from the council: ‘Forget the gimmicks and get the basics right.’ We’ve listened and delivered it.”

The alternative budget, entitled “A Citizen Led Budget” proposes investment in repairing roads and cleaning up the borough – the top two priorities by a substantial margin in the council’s public consultation and the top two from the Lib Dems’ own extensive surveys.

The other big consultation – the Leisure Review – also meets with a positive answer. The Lib Dem budget identifies money to replace both Royton and Crompton pools – there or elsewhere. “It is the will, not the money, which is lacking”, says Howard.

“It must have been the biggest response and most decisive result of any consultation in the borough’s history. Labour was not open about its intentions and was deaf to democracy. We will put that right.”

Lynne Thompson, Liberal Democrat Finance Spokesperson, describes the proposals for the roads. “It has become citizens’ number one concern yet Labour ignores it”, she says. “It is obvious that spending the winter filling huge potholes is ineffective. Much better and cheaper to fill the new ones before they can become craters. The Lib Dems propose a ‘summer pothole blitz’. A quarter of a million pounds invested would save not just a fortune but the public’s bent wheels and fraying nerves.”

“We were also struck by the pent-up need in the local resurfacing schemes councillors put forward. We propose a large one-off cash injection to clear the most dangerous borough-wide.”

Eight extra street cleaners, backed up by two neighbourhood enforcement officers, would make an immediate difference to street cleanliness. A new enforcement pilot project would see six more officers detecting culprits, trying out new techniques of deterrence and targeting dog fouling. With £2m a year spent clearing rubbish, they would pay for themselves.

Community Payback stays. The public likes to see people make amends; the work is useful; and it reduces reoffending.

Youth services get a boost, with the emphasis on filling gaps and diverting young people at risk of antisocial behaviour. Go!Oldham’s success proves it works.

The popular Sunday opening of the central library and gallery would continue under Lib Dem proposals. A different clientele from weekdays includes families, full-time workers and students.

Labour’s plans to slow Housing and Council Tax benefit claims are axed as risky and unfair.

And how is it paid for?

The Lib Dems would squeeze the back office harder to boost services and it would not fritter away money on the gimmick projects we are sure to see over the coming months. Windfall reductions in transport and waste levies should be invested to reduce future costs, as should £1m provision kept ‘up the sleeve’ until final government confirmation that it was not needed.

The document can be access on Oldham Council’s website at:$

Crompton Pool:Sustaining the Pressure Over Closure Threat

Cllr Howard sykes campaigns with local residents to keep Crompton Pool open

Howard Sykes and Liberal Democrat colleagues are maintaining the pressure on the Labour administration over the issue of Crompton Pool. Following the public consultation Howard is maitaining that the widest possible range of options are considered for the Crompton Pool replacement which, in addition to possible sites at Royton Town Centre and Royton and Crompton School, will now include Shaw Town Centre and any other potential suitable sites that are readily accessible within Shaw or Royton.
Speaking at a recent Council meeting, Howard said, “It should be fully recognised that a new permanent leisure/pool facility in Shaw would not only be viable and cost effective but help retain the integrity and vibrancy of the town.” He also asked for clarification that neither Royton nor Crompton pools will close before a new facility comes on stream.
Additionally, Howard has asked that any decision taken regarding the leisure provision in the Borough between May 2011 and February 2012 be made transparent saying, “It is important for the people of Shaw, Crompton and Royton that any decisions taken on this important issue are done so in a completely transparent way that allows residents to understand and have their say about any proposed changes. I believe this is the right way to do business with local residents.” Got a comment? Contact Howard directly via his contact page.