Your Labour City Cabinet is getting close to the highlight of the municipal year as the Council will decide its Budget on 21st February.
This year there has been extensive consultation and discussion amongst councillors of all parties as we all struggle with the serious financial climate which sees us having to deliver services from next year for £19m instead of £21m. The proposals currently put forward by officers to achieve this include a mixture of improved ways of working, new technology and reducing the city council’s staff by about 25. Our aim, through managing vacancies and restructuring staff, is to avoid compulsory redundancies.
You may also have read that from May the city council will abandon its Cabinet/Leader structure and revert to a Committee system of governance. This was brought about as a result of Green councillors backing a Conservative motion to Council. This means that each committee will have an in-built Conservative majority, though it is as yet unclear who may be Leader or Chairs of the various committees in question.
Alongside these intense negotiations, the Labour-led city council has continued to focus on bringing jobs and investment to Worcester and supporting schemes to develop a skilled workforce. We have implemented a new Tourism Strategy and have backed the Worcester 10k for a further three years, with the addition of a wheelchair 10k and a Worcester half marathon. We have opened the new pool and gym facility at Perdiswell (it really is a great and exciting new building if you have not been to check it out). We have invested resources in work around entrenched rough sleepers, have supported the building of social housing and have resisted Tory pressure to make the poorest and most vulnerable pay 20% of their council tax bill.
As Leader of a Labour council, it was also a great pleasure to welcome Diane Abbott MP to Worcester as part of the Party’s NHS campaign – Worcestershire Health service is facing some real problems and has again hit the national headlines with restrictions to be imposed on operations for hip and knee replacements.
Finally, the dreadful outcome of the Ofsted Inspection of the County Council’s Children‘s Services ( a rating of Inadequate) comes as no surprise, especially after the shenanigans over the transfer of staff to Babcock. Your city council has a corporate parenting role even though it is not the social services authority, and so we are keeping a close eye on developments at County Hall and are making sure our own safeguarding procedures are fit for purpose.