Tuesday, 19 June 2012
When I rode home with a Labour Cabinet portfolio holder...
Tonight's write up of the short Ealing Cabinet meeting started dead on time. I think the Leader of the Council had a football match to watch!
If you want to see the reference about a Labour cabinet portfolio holder please skip to the last paragraph.
The main item concerned the Council finances so I will list the main points from questions I asked or the discussion itself.
Council Tax Discount for a Second Home
The Labour administration have now seen sense and are to introduce a Liberal Democrat plan to scrap the 10% Council Tax discount for those owning a second home. My Lib Dem party put this forward in the last Council Tax budget as an official amendment but they turned it down.
So a Labour U-turn. At least they made the right decision, eventually. The money this would save should be used to reduce the effects of any cuts that are planned to harm services for the vulnerable in Ealing.
I asked about the £40 garden tax and how they only have about 11,500 residents who have subscribed so far when they need about 25,000 to break even. This means that next year the £40 tax is likely to rise to £50, £60, who knows. So they either need to promote the heck out of the scheme and raise some money in the latter part of the year or put the price (sorry tax) up next year. The cabinet member in charge of Recycling Services stated they were "ahead of target".
Not sure if he understand the math. Even if they sign up lots more people towards the end of the year it will mean that they only get a partial year's worth of money from those residents. Perhaps the Ealing Labour party think 1 + 1 = 3. Perhaps I should bring in Countdown's Rachel Riley to the next Cabinet meeting.
Without realising, the Council may be facing two ways on changes to automating the Housing Benefit system. A lead Council officer briefed the Liberal Democrat group recently about changes that would save money and not cause any loss or downgrade to service, by enabling some residents who are applying for Housing Benefits to do so online. This could be cheaper and cause no issues but there are significant numbers of peopel who do not have access to or use the internet.
During the discussion a number of Labour councillors slated the plan because the IT aspects of it would not cope with the demand. It is not obvious which of those views are correct but it seems the Labour Councillors have not been liaising with their officers who appear to be confident things will work. Time will tell.
The meeting after that was relatively rushed due to the England football team who were playing in the Euro 2012 tournament. Given the meeting was finished it made sense to see if England could triumph. I took a lift in the car of a Labour portfolio holder with another Labour councillor.
The conversation was entertaining and despite politicians usually slagging each other off most only do that occasionally. The ride home was welcomed and I only missed about a quarter of the game.