Thursday, 24 February 2011

Bradford Council's a thought about tweeting!


The deed is done - the Council has set a budget. For most folk the most important thing about it remains the answer to the question: "so how much is my Council Tax going up by?" I know, I know - the real story is about the cuts - either spiteful and targeted at vulnerable people or forced onto innocent and efficient Councils by the evil monster Pickles. But when - in about an hour - I arrive at the Club ready to win the quiz, I know it will be the Council Tax question that gets asked.

Don't get me wrong here, the 'cuts' are important - especially important if you're the poor soul who has lost a job or no longer get a particular service. But in the round taking £56m out of a £1.2bn budget isn't going to make the wheels fall off the wagon - especially if, as in Bradford's case, the Council anticipated the scale of reductions. Nevertheless the decision today included decisions to cut services - closing small libraries, removing off-highway rural bin collection and dramatically reducing the budgets for maintaining highways, parks and local facilities. These decisions - for all the talk of equity and equality from the Council's leadership - disproportionate affect people living in rural parts of the district.

So when I'm asked why I voted against the budget it isn't because I could write a better one (although I could) but because the Labour Party chose to target cuts directly and deliberately at the people I represent.

And I shall be telling those people about that decision.


Partly related to this is a comment from that rarity - someone in the public gallery during a council meeting - who asked why I was 'playing with my phone'. In truth I was tweeting - commenting on what was being said by members during the budget debate. To do this I have to listen to what's being said!

And it means that a load of people who might not be able to or want to come to the actual meeting are able to get a flavour - albeit coloured by my bias - of what's happening. Perhaps a few hundred people knew something - certainly more than would be the case in past years - about our budget deliberations.

I don't consider that to be disrespectful but to be an enhancement - its extending our engagement and people's involvement in the processes of democracy. I was able to give response and comment on things people were concerned about - care for the elderly, children's services and support for the arts - as decisions about those very things were being discussed.

So no, I wasn't playing with my phone. I was enhancing democracy - something more Councillors should do!



CCTV said...

How many Union Officials are paid from Council Tax ? How much money is involved ? Leeds apparently spends 357,000 pounds on subsidising Union salaries.....and Bradford ?

Simon Cooke said...

@CCTV Also over £300,000 on paying salaries of full-time union convenors