Saturday, 25 February 2017

Rabina Khan and Ohid Ahmed's adventure in La La Land: John Biggs defends his budget

John Biggs, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets has issued a statement to the Labour party members and his supporters, addressing the budget controversy via BAME WhatsApp Group. For the greater public interest, it should be shared with all. I do not believe in secret politics when public welfare is supposed to be 'the concern' of politics. For the benefit of my readers, I have divided his statement into differnet themes. 

First: Consultation and Transparency

I am aware that there are lively discussions about our budget. There is a lot of disinformation and I thought I would share with you this statement which I have just written:
I am happy to attend members meetings and always have been and always will be.
I am happy to attend (genuine) public meetings too.
I am happy to talk through our budget which is progressive and protects vulnerable people in our community. It was a tough budget. I think the toughest I have ever seen.

The labour group, together with Labour Party observers have been considering these choices since about July and in greater detail September. We have had some very detailed discussions about how we can make wise choices. I think our budget achieves that. We are spending about £95million of reserves to reduce the impact of the cuts. With another £30million spent to reduce future budget pressures by investment.

I have met a large number of people in the community, as have some of my cabinet members, to talk through these changes. I am happy to keep meeting people and will never hide in the town hall or refuse to meet people. 

It hasn't been a secret process although clearly when you are thinking about complex changes you need to consider options and then put them together like a three dimensional jigsaw. So there is not much point in discussing options you have ruled out as all that will happen is that someone in tower hamlets politics will put out something attacking you for a choice you are not making.

And in the end you know that some of your decisions will be tough - you want to protect everything but cannot manage without changes.

The test I apply is: 'Am I willing to stand in front of you and defend the budget?' And I am. I don't like some of the choices but I will defend it.

Second : 'No Choice' Argument 

John Biggs presents the ‘helplessness’ he feels in making the cuts to children and youth services. Here are the exact wordings:

''It is impossible to make these savings without affecting to some degree children's services and youth services. Or indeed other services that will reach vulnerable or needy people so will have some inevitable unpopularity. But we can minimise those impacts and I think we have.
As an alternative to cutting in the areas we decide are priority areas we need to cut even more deeply other services which we would have to pretend or argue were less valuable. That is always tough.''

Third: Balance the Budget

These are Tory cuts but the money we spend mostly comes from the government and we have little choice and have to balance our budgets. One way or another we need to make decisions that achieve the savings we need to make the budget add up.
If we don't balance our budget all that happens is a crisis where we have to sack people and shut things down without any serious choices. Other labour councils have found themselves in that position when they wouldn't face hard choices or thought they could defeat the government. You can't defeat the government with a council budget.

We always think about the equalities impact of what we are doing. None of us are in labour to oppose equality. So we particularly look at disadvantaged and excluded groups and how we can help them and target areas of spending at them. 

Rabina Khan | Courtesy:

Fourth: Opposition Budget: 

It gives me no pleasure finding that scale of savings. But the people who tell you they are not necessary (which includes Ohid's and Rabina's anti-labour  groups) are enjoying the luxury of opposition. In opposition you are always right but never have to make tough choices.

The opposition budgets would do various things. The Tory one is pretty obvious. The two independent ones both made heroic assumptions about savings in areas they found boring so they can protect the popular bits. But in reality they would spend reserves we do not have (on top of our £125 million from reserves) and this would mean a budget crisis next year and the year after when we would have to slash our services and sack hundreds of staff. One of their amendments would need us to sack social workers and end free school meals this year.

Their budgets are based on Mickey Mouse economics. Under the previous mayor by the way hundreds of staff were sacked or made redundant. It was not the magic fairy land as they try to pretend.

We have in particular a growing crisis in social services because of their neglect plus £millions spent on agency staff. Wait and see as they run for cover and pretend it's not true. 

It will be their latest adventure in La La Land.


''At times like this it is far far more comfortable to be in opposition and pretend none of this is necessary. When thousands of people made me mayor they had to ask whether they trusted me to make fair, if hard, decisions. They were right. I am. Let's work together and take on our real enemies. They are the Tories. And others who divide us.''
John Biggs.

I will post my response to this as soon as I have done more research on some of his points. In the meantime, I will also see if Rabina Khan and Ohid Ahmed has anything to respond to John Biggs statement. 

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