I had my speech prepared in good time and then yesterday had a call which provided fresh information which I wanted to include… annoying when that happens and you have already cut your speech as we only get 5 minutes to say our piece at Full Council.
The video below is an introduction I decided to create as I felt a little rushed in my delivery… this is followed by my budget speech in words and then the my budget speech video at Full Council.
Tonight I will be asking RBWM’s Full Council…
Do we need to call in TVP CID to determine Best Value?
The Government recommends councils follow a “best value” approach to managing and delivering services.
Reviewing the RBWM Corporate Plan and any local surveys would be a good starting point.
I’m going to focus my attention on two lines that never appeared in the draft budget but suddenly appeared, as if by magic, in the final budget before us this evening.
That’s the £200k for Environmental Enforcement Officers and the £240k for Police Officers.
Senior officers knew nothing of these new lines when I asked them.
I am assuming that cabinet members brought these forward with good sound solid data sets to support their investment.
My initial thoughts are that these lines are a work of fiction, political invention and PR spin.
Let’s explore further…
Our No.1 Strength in the Corporate Plan is our Communities.
Not much in the Corporate Plan about crime. Inspiring Places talks of an increase in the proportion of women and girls who feel safe in the borough, including through a safe, thriving night time economy.
It talks of a Council trusted to deliver on its promises. Offering meaningful opportunities to engage and influence council priorities and policies.
Sounds great, let’s read on…
2022 RBWM Residents Survey of 1740 residents
Around 2% of adults which is a good representative sample.
Sadly, only 52% agree that the council provides value for money 🙁
Just under three quarters of respondents (72%) agree people pull together to improve their local area.
97% of residents feel safe in their local area during the day, 82% after dark.
18% of residents felt that low crime and safety makes the local area a good place to live. This is twice the number (9%) who felt that crime and safety is something that needs improving.
2023 Budget Consultation Report – just 368 responses
There were a small number of concerns about the need for additional police/community wardens… I am told seemingly 9 mentions… 0.006% of RBWM residents.
This afternoon Cllrs were sent the Budget Survey comments. I couldn’t find 9 by scanning and using “find & replace”. More like 3 or 4…
One said, “WE NEED the police to be visible and active, which is not always happening, sadly.”
Another, “Cut the policing rate increase as they are now NEVER SEEN!”
The Community Safety Survey 2022
Achieved 401 responses, with 26 residents saying they didn’t feel safe because of “no visible police presence / police not fit for purpose”. That could be read in one of two ways!
It seems a handful of the 150,000 residents citing lack of “visibility of Police” has been used to justify giving TVP a quarter of a million pounds this year and very likely closer to £1m of residents money, over and above the millions already paid in precept.
Hardly in keeping with recommended “best value” budget practice!
Personally I feel TVP does a great job and I am confident in Matthew’s abilities but this is not the way to spend RBWM residents money. He has the TVP precept on which to base his policing budget and already has plans for 80 additional officers within that pot.
As for the £200k investment in Environmental Enforcement Officers… this has zero mentions in the Corporate Plan or resident surveys.
I think it’s fair to conclude, without the need to call in TVP CID, these lines are a work of fiction, political invention and PR spin.
I have requested these budget lines are reviewed by CIPFA as they don’t feel right but I’d like to go a step further…
THE GOOD NEWS IS…
70% of us feel safe or very safe in RBWM and the main reason given was “close knit community and good neighbours looking out for them”.
Here’s a radical idea… how about we focus any TVP investment on Community Wardens who are employed by RBWM?
Community Wardens provide community support and reassurance, to help reduce crime and disorder or the fear of crime. The team work with all parts of the community, and operate in collaboration with Thames Valley Police.
They sound like the perfect solution yet the Tory administration has chosen to cull the number of Community Wardens from 25 to just 6 today! 4 currently active… £240k a year could potentially double their number!
To say CIPFA were not impressed with how RBWM ran its finances when they did a full review at the start of this administration, is an understatement. CIPFA identified and implemented major improvements.
It’s reassuring to hear there are new checks & measures also being adopted through the Audit process. Ensuring RBWM have enough officers to ensure professional contract management.
Being able to come up with budget lines on the fly based with little or no evidence to justify them is a work of fiction, political invention and PR spin.
With a new administration this could become a thing of the past and residents would finally get a council trusted to deliver on its promises.