Our budget plans for the coming financial year are focussed firmly on protecting front line services in the teeth of continuing financial pressures across public services.
But thanks to our sound financial management over the past two years, since Labour took over control of the council, this year’s budget isn’t a story about cuts – it is story about protecting and investing in services.
It is a story about real efficiency – the kind that is driving out savings from contracts and our “back office” support services, which gives us more money to spend on front line services.
That is how we are able to have already identified savings of £9 million in the coming financial year, freeing up some £1.5 million to invest in services.
Where that money is going is defined by our pledges and resident’s priorities. I am sure there is not a single reader of this column who would disagree that keeping children safe from harm should be at the top of the list for investment.
That is why we are putting an extra quarter of a million pounds into funding additional officers to work on child protection and to bolster front line social services.
It is in the interests of Hounslow, London and the national economy that we have a town centre which is a thriving trading centre. We have ambitious plans for the development of Hounslow Town Centre to make sure that our local economy grows and we have a town centre where retail, business and leisure can thrive. And we are also investing in regeneration elsewhere in borough, for example to produce plans for an exciting and sustainable future for Feltham Arenas.
It is lazy and wrong to suggest, as the leader of our opposition group on the council did recently, that because we are able to invest we have over-taxed. Council tax levels in Hounslow have not increased for six years, a record for an outer London borough and a fact made even more remarkable by the coalition Government’s public service cuts.
This year’s budget is based on sound, effective financial management, efficient administration and above all, a strong understanding of the services which matter most to residents, and a willingness to invest in them.