A budget of missed opportunities and broken promises - austerity continues for local government.
Despite the Prime Minister’s claims the budget did little to relieve the pressure on local government budgets, cuts will continue, and public services will deteriorate still further. In Gloucester austerity has meant we have already cut £12 million from our revenue budget and further cuts can be expected next year. There was no relief for hard pressed school budgets in Gloucester and many Headteachers are in despair. Schools need revenue funding for teachers, support staff and exercise books. For the Chancellor to provide a small amount of capital funding for the “little extras” is insulting and demonstrates a complete failure to understand the real problems our schools are facing. Sticking plaster amounts of funding for adult social care and universal credit although welcome nowhere near compensate for previous cuts and care services will continue to suffer. My final observation is that there are still £5 million of previously agreed cuts in welfare benefits to work their way through the system. For the poorest in our society and the 4 million children living in poverty this budget offered little or nothing.
Future of Gloucester’s Tourist Information Centre
The future of Gloucester’s award-winning Tourist Information Centre in Southgate Street is uncertain as the Tories struggle to make £38,000 of cuts to the culture budget. Their proposal to move the centre to the Guildhall met with widespread disapproval (cross party) at the recent meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee where it was discussed. One interesting proposal by Labour Councillor Neil Hampson was that as an interim measure the TIC could be delivered jointly from the Guildhall and the City Museum in Brunswick Road dubbed “two for the price of one”. O & S have recommended that Cabinet look again at this and consider this alternative proposal. Labour’s position is clear in the longer term we want to see the TIC incorporated into the Kings Quarter development possibly as part of the new cultural hub in Kings Square.
Post Office closure in Kings Square
The Post Office has recently announced plans to close its main office in Kings Square and relocate sharing premises with W.H. Smith in Kings Walk. We have real concerns about the proposed move which will result in a poorer service for local people. However, if the move does go ahead we believe it presents a golden opportunity to move the Council’s Customer
Service Reception there rather than to Westgate Street. We have long voiced concerns that 92 – 96 Westgate Street is simply not big enough to cope with demand. We have raised the matter with Councillor Hannah Norman – Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources and senior Council officers and they have agreed to carry out a feasibility study into this.
Opening of new Bus Station
I was pleased to attend the official opening of Gloucester’s new Bus Station grandiosely called a new transport hub! This is a fantastic landmark building and congratulations must go to the team involved. It is the first step in the regeneration of Kings Quarter and now we need to press on and finish the job. Labour will continue to hold the Tories to account and ensure this much needed regeneration continues as planned.
Terry Pullen is the Leader of the Labour Group of Councillors at Gloucester City Council.
This is part of a series of regular blogs which focus on events at the Council.