EC email to Nigel Shaw re 2019-20 budget

Email from Ellie Chowns to Nigel Shaw, Cabinet Member for Finance, 24 September 2018

Budget consultation feedback

Dear Nigel,

Thank you for the opportunity to feed into the consultation on the Council’s 2019/20 budget.

I appreciate that the budget process is a major undertaking and that lots of people are working very hard on it.  However there are a few areas where the process needs to be improved, and so I will focus here on my three main concerns.

1: Capital budget

I am disappointed and concerned that there was virtually no mention of the capital budget in the consultation. This seems to me very odd, considering that we have almost no ‘wiggle room’ in revenue budgets due to years of austerity policies that have slashed Council budgets to the bone but we have much more flexibility in the capital budget.  In relative terms, capital budget is very significant: revenue budget of £145m next year, vs capital budget of £92m this year (a proportion of which I assume is likely to be carried over) and £48m next year?

And yet virtually all of the 25-page powerpoint consultation doc is focused on the revenue budget.

The only information on capital given to the public is on p24, which has a very basic summary of the capital programme (as it stood in January 2018) with no detail or explanation.  As I understand it, the only way a reader could find out what this money is being spent on is by looking at p205 of the January 2018 Council meeting papers, but this information is not given to residents.  (Also: the headline figures do not appear to have been updated to incorporate revisions to the capital budget that were agreed at council in July 2018).

At the very least I would expect that a consultation on the 2019/20 budget should include information on planned capital expenditure for 2019/20 and beyond, along with some explanatory text.

I would like to request that future budget consultations:

·       Provide residents with much more detail on the capital budget, commensurate with the scale of the capital budget relative to revenue;

·       List key capital projects planned, explain their justification, and seek resident feedback on them;

·       Provide residents with a structured opportunity to feed in ideas on top priorities for capital investment.

Fundamentally, residents should be provided with a) enough information to understand what the council is planning to spend capital on and to reach a reasoned view on whether this is a good use of money, and b) an opportunity to feed into decision-making on capital expenditure.

Since we still have several months before Council considers the budget, perhaps this could now be done?

2: The ‘till receipt’

I appreciate the rationale for this initiative – to make council expenditure more transparent to local residents.  However I feel the presentation of the ‘schools and education’ section is misleading.  A casual reader would get the impression that this is by far the largest item on which council tax is spent, and this is not at all the case.  Although the receipt is structured so as to show the DSG in the ‘voucher’ section, I suspect that what is really meant here will not be clear to the majority of readers.

I therefore suggest:

·       Budget items such as schools and education, and public health, which are entirely (or almost entirely) covered by central government grant, should be shown separately from the ‘council tax’ part of the till receipt.

·       Consideration should be given to showing expenditures not just in £ terms but also % terms (and ideally visually – ref the pie charts sent out by HMRC annually to taxpayers.)

3: Consultation design

I and other councillors raised a number of points on this at the budget consultation briefing in July. In particular, there was concern about the simplistic and closed nature of the survey questions. I distinctly remember a verbal commitment being given at that meeting to include space for respondents to write comments, but this was not in fact done.

I would have been very happy to contribute to improving the design of the information documents and the survey, but there was no time allowed for this; Councillors were briefed the day before the consultation was due to be released.  Comments made by myself and others at the meeting that would have improved readability of the powerpoint (inclusion of page numbers, revised presentation of p6 graphic) were not acted on.

On the budget consultation website there were no links to enable residents to easily access information beyond that provided in the PPP.

I do hope that in future years councillors will be given more opportunity to comment on the structure of the consultation before it is opened.

Thank you once more for the opportunity to feed in, and I look forward to engaging with you throughout the process over the coming months.

All the best, Ellie

9 November – “Peace, Police, Youth, You”, (cancelled and replaced by a different talk)

We are very sorry that Paul Hutchinson who was to talk to us about ‘Case Studies from Northern Ireland’ on Friday 9th November, is unwell and has had to cancel his visit.

 But we are not cancelling the evening, and will have a discussion on ‘Bringing Communities Together’.

We are very pleased that  John Dinnen, at very short notice,  will start things off with talk entitled ‘Curing Irish Apartheid’  

 We hope you will still come along and join us. there will be the usual stalls and refreshments from 7 pm.  followed by talk at 7.30 pm.

Peace, Police, Youth, You: Case studies from Northern Ireland, Talk by Paul Hutchinson at the Friends Meeting House, King Street, Hereford. 7.30pm (stalls and refreshments from 7pm)

Paul Hutchinson is the founder/Director of Imagined Spaces, and former director of Corrymeela, (Northern Ireland’s oldest peace & reconciliation centre). He is a mediator, therapist, film-maker, story-teller and peace-practitioner.

Organised by the Millichap Peace Fund.

 

 

28 October – Annual Bleddfa Lecture: “The F Word”

11:30am Bleddfa Church.

THE F-WORD – forgiving in an unforgiving world

Marina Cantacuzino is a journalist who founded The Forgiveness Project in 2004. The charity was set up to tell the real stories of people whose response to being harmed was not a call for revenge but rather a quest for restoration and healing. Marina’s book The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age was published in 2015.

Marian Partington’s interest in healing threads through her work as a homeopath, and as a story teller and facilitator for The Forgiveness Project. Her book If You Sit Very Still offers ‘an extraordinary story of inner movement and growth’ (Rowan Williams) as she engages with the traumatic loss of her sister Lucy who was murdered by Fred and Rosemary West.

Request your FREE ticket from Bleddfa Centre:

01547 550377 or email hello@bleddfacentre.org

Bleddfa LD7 1PA is halfway between Knighton and Pen y Bont on the A488

4 November – Walk and tea with Elaine and Chris at Eardisland

We will be following one of the Eardisland World War 1 memorial walks from the village.

Meet at 2.15pm at the village car park opposite the dovecote by the river. After the walk we will have tea at Lyme Cottage, Lyme Lane, Eardisland

All walks, bike rides, teas etc. are fundraisers for the Green Party, as well as being pleasant social occasions, and we suggest a minimum contribution of £3.00. Children free. If coming by car please try to share transport where possible. Non-members are very welcome. We are very grateful to those who kindly host these events, many thanks. Could you host a walk and tea or other social/fundraising event? If so, please ring 01568 780886 or email folley.farm@btinternet.com

24 October – A Peace Train visits Leominster

October 24th is United Nations Day and, to celebrate the day, Transition Leominster is supporting Hereford Peace Council in a very special event. A designated train on the line from Chester to Newport will carry members and friends of the Peace Council as ambassadors to the government. They will be greeted at every station en route by groups of sympathisers to their message. And what is that message?

“ Sign the United Nations Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons”

Last year saw the fulfilment of the long standing aim of the UN when 122 countries agreed that nuclear weapons should be illegal and that the process should begin to eradicate them universally. They gave official recognition to the fact that nuclear weapons, whoever holds them, whether by purpose or accident, threaten the very existence of humanity.

The British Government has refused to sign the treaty.

At every station where the Peace Train stops, letters and petitions to the government will be handed over to those messengers on the train, to be carried from Newport to London and the House of Commons. Many groups along the line have responded to this call asking our government to take this step towards a more peaceful and secure world. Transition Leominster’s placards will be emphasising those essential elements of life which would benefit from transfer of the expenditure on Trident missiles – food security, water, health, education. Page 100 of the UNA-UK Sustainable Development Goals spells it out:

Peace is at the heart of sustainable development

The Peace Train is scheduled to stop in Leominster at 11.18 am on October 24th. All those in sympathy with the message are encouraged to write their own letter or sign the petition at the Community Centre or Priory Church, where there is more information. And to come to the station on the day in support.

20 October – Brexit People’s Vote March in London

Coaches are being organised to take people from Hereford and Ledbury as follows:

Hereford coach leaves Merton Meadows car park at 6.30AM.

Ledbury coach leaves Ledbury station car park at 7.00AM

For Hereford, the organisers say – “A ”FREE” coach will be leaving Hereford at 6.30am on the 20th, and this is targeted primarily (but not exclusively) at students and young people. In order to book a place please email Herefordshire@4eu.org.uk. We are asking students to pay £10 to secure their place and this will be refunded on arrival at the coach. In order to book places we need full name, mobile number and next of kin details. Free places are also available for non students.”

Seats on the Ledbury coach are £20 each. Contact Herefordshire@4eu.org.uk or suepenn@outlook.com

Trish Marsh appears on BBC Sunday Politics Midlands

Trish appeared on the BBC Sunday Politics Midlands TV programme, on 7 October – watch here on BBC iPlayer.

(available until 3 November)

Discussion included:

Council house building – “make all new houses affordable to run by building to high energy efficiency standards”

Hospital services, A&E restricted opening hours – “Tory announcement that community hospitals are secure and should play a bigger role is great, but we need to have more integration between NHS and Social Services to reduce A&E attendances.”

Structure of Local Government – “whether we have a two-tier or a unitary structure as Herefordshire does, the main issue is the reduced funding available to local councils to deliver services”

 

9 September – Green Party bike ride from Canon Frome

Meet at Canon Frome Court, HR8 2TD at 10.30 for a 10.45 start.

A gentle 20/25 miles ride round the beautiful local lanes, for those who don’t cycle very often. We will stop on the way for lunch so bring a picnic, and make sure that your bike is well oiled and tyres hard. Our ride coincides with h.Art week and 20 artists are exhibiting at Canon Frome Court, so back there for tea which will be on sale, and a chance to visit the exhibiting artists.’

Parking available but don’t park on the tennis courts.

Organiser Giles Boardman  Tel 01432 358214

All walks, bike rides, teas etc. are fundraisers for the Green Party, as well as being pleasant social occasions, and we suggest a minimum contribution of £3.00. Children free.

If coming by car please try to share transport where possible. Non-members are very welcome. We are very grateful to those who kindly host these events, many thanks.

Could you host a walk and tea or other social/fundraising event? If so, please ring 01568 780886 or email folley.farm@btinternet.com

Campaigns Assistant required for Herefordshire Green Party

Want to help Herefordshire Green Party win more seats in next May’s county council elections? And be paid to make a difference?

We are recruiting a Campaigns Assistant to make our upcoming local election campaign our most successful ever. As well as helping elect Green councillors, you would support us to increase activism and build on the strong Green presence in Herefordshire.

Salary: £20,786 FTE (Point 1 on the Green Party national pay scale) £8,314 pro rata

Hours: Part time – 14 hours per week

Contract: Fixed term – six months

Location: Home-based

Applications to be submitted by 1:00pm on Monday 17 September 2018 – it is expected that interviews will be held the following week. For more information and details on how to apply, please see the job description and person specification.

 

 

2 September – Walk and tea with Mike and Tamsin, Halmonds Frome

 

A gentle 90-minute walk passing through the village of Bishops Frome and around the fruitful Frome Valley, with its hop-fields, cider orchards and views across the county to Hay Bluff.

PLEASE NOTE: The walk will start at 2.30pm at Greenwood Cottage, Halmonds Frome, (WR6 5AS), where the walk will also finish with tea, scones and cakes at the workshops of Mike and Tamsin Abbott (chair-maker & stained glass artist). If necessary, there will be overflow parking near the barns along the lane.

If you have a wood-fire at home then you might like to bring a big bag to take away a pile of wood-shavings for winter kindling.

All walks, bike rides, teas etc. are fundraisers for the Green Party, as well as being pleasant social occasions, and we suggest a minimum contribution of £3.00. Children free.

If coming by car please try to share transport where possible. Non-members are very welcome. We are very grateful to those who kindly host these events, many thanks.

Could you host a walk and tea or other social/fundraising event? If so, please ring 01568 780886 or email folley.farm@btinternet.co

 

5 August – Walk and tea with Edward and Jacky, near Peterchurch

Meet at 2.30pm at Brockwell, Long Lane, Peterchurch HR2 0TE. The house is on the right hand side of the lane as you go up, almost exactly a mile from the junction with the B-Road. Look for a white building that has a wall out on the road. To find us, you turn immediately beside the Nags Head pub – this is on the B-Road, and at the very Western end of Peterchurch. Turn left here if coming from the Hereford direction (or right if coming from Dorstone) and then carry on for a mile going straight over at a small cross road.

The walk will include a tour of newly restored Snodhill Castle.

House phone number is 01981 551195. My mobile is 07905 304728 but signal round here is patchy.

 

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