HONK! Wanna hear what is coming up at Cabinet when the eight Portfolio Holders gather around the BIG table in the Grand Jury Room for a constructive debate [yeah, right] on the evening of the 23rd January?
Course you do!
The rolling out of Borough wide food waste collections, the Community Right to Bid and a new ten-year contract for Colchester United at the Community Stadium will all get the rubber stamp treatment after less than an hour of conversation at Cabinet.
Throw in some fiscal based chat (which The Chronic can’t quite get its calculator around) and you have the recipe for a right old local authority winter knees up.
WANNA PARTY, Comrades?
Let’s start with the seasonal favourite of the:
2013/14 General Fund Revenue Budget, Capital Programme and Medium Term Financial Forecast.
Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Of interest here is Council Tax. Basically it’s going up for any Band D property dwellers. But before you start downsizing to a chicken shack 1 bed buy to let, the rise is 1.95% – £3.42 per year or the price of a pint.
A £250k under spend is also written into the report. CBC is playing it cautious however. Some may say pessimistic:
“The Revenue Budget for 2013 / 14 has been prepared against a background of meeting the Council’s Strategic Plan objectives whilst continuing to face significant financial pressures from the reductions in core Government funding and the ongoing difficult economic background.”
NEVER buy a CBC Cabinet report writer a half pint and put it in a full glass. The evening will only go downhill from here.
Add into the equation a £727k reduction in central government funding, and you can soon see how the column tickers at the Town Hall are currently scrambling around for any lost receipts.
Here at The Chronic and we’re not sufficiently economically – or empirically – inclined to analyse how this stacks up against the perceived increase in local government settlement for Sunny Colch, as reported by The Graun.
As for the CBC Icelandic *ahem* investments:
“The latest bulletin estimates the remaining balance being repaid annually in equal installments between 2012 and 2019.”
Best read the small print on any future investment, Comrades. The cost of a Get Rich Quick scheme may go up; equally it may go down. It may even bugger off completely from the CBC balance sheet.
And so a relatively healthy economic outlook for Sunny Colch it seems, given the context of the collapse of Western capitalism. There is even sufficient scope in the Cabinet papers to look ahead as to how the roof (or walls) can be repaired during these Golden Days:
“Within the above forecast there is currently an estimated total of £1.9m of unallocated resources available to release. It is recommended that part of this be used for the priorities detailed in Appendix H:
£50k for repairs to the town walls.
£379k for repairs to the external walls of Colchester castle.
£200k in respect of the Temporary Accommodation Review.
£92k for repairs to the walls of closed churchyards.
£200k for CBC funding for Disabled Facilities Grants in 2013/14.
£200k contribution towards MRP costs for the Community Stadium in 2013 / 14.
£40k for the refurbishment of the lift in the Lion Walk Activity Centre.”
If finance be the food or love [what?] then the best way to a Careerist Politician’s heart is to tell them how much wonga they will be saving by actually introducing a new service.
Let’s take a look at the Food Waste Collection Trial.
“Agree to the introduction of a food waste collections service for every household in the Borough of Colchester including flats.”
This has been trialed across 7,100 households since November 2011. 452 tons of food waste was diverted from landfill out of just 10% of the Borough’s population.
And the significance? (Apart from the obvious green credentials, blah, blah, blah…)
“This generated landfill tax savings for Essex County Council in the region of £27,000.”
97% of participants made use of the new service at the start of the scheme. This dipped to 73% when the trial was coming to a close. The real test when Borough wide food waste collections are introduced will be to maintain high participation levels.
Um, a free Tesco voucher, anyone?
Moving on down the Cabinet agenda sheet and the key to The Chronic’s own heart was well and truly touched up by CBC:
“To recommend to Cabinet that it approves the approach to Localism in Colchester.”
We LOVE the irony of central government dictating from up above:
“We will push power downwards and outwards to the lowest possible level, including individuals, neighbourhoods, professionals and communities as well as local councils and other local institutions.”
The Community Right to Challenge allows you to take on a local authority service, should you be able to do it better (and cheaper…)
Um, anyone want to pitch in with the CBC website?
But wait! What’s this?
“The role of voluntary and community sector organisations will be crucial.”
They say Localism, we say *cough* Big Society.
No surprises to see that the ethos behind the political concept of the Big Society is already happening right here in Sunny Colch. Communities have volunteered and stepped forward to meet needs for decades. This will continue, with or without the political wrapping paper of Localism.
CBC Cabinet recognises this:
“We already have a wide range of work that could be part of a Localism agenda. There are many projects but below are some examples:
Volunteering work, High Woods Country Park, Colchester’s Countryside Volunteer Rangers.
Community participation, Myland Ward / Mile End Parish Council attracting external funding for localised tree planting on Colchester Borough Council land.
Parish and Town Councils, West Mersea Town Council taking on The Glebe extension and play area, with developer’s maintenance contributions.”
As for Asset Transfer?
CBC is planning to hand over assets into the community for future management. These include:
Harbour Resource Centre, Tiptree, Garrison and Greenstead and St Anne’s Centres.
The reason why?
It’s a helluva lot cheaper asking the community to run the service than to fund it yourself.
Crucially (and rather pragmatically):
“The whole philosophy of Localism is that it must come from individuals and communities; they must decide what they wish to engage with and they bring the main resource to the table in their own commitment and the hours they are prepared to volunteer.”
Ward Councillors are given a new name in the report: Key Conduits.
The Comrades will LOVE that.
The Chronic became slightly aroused [Ooooh] upon reading:
“Considerable work is already underway to substantially improve the digital infrastructure in the Town and Borough, and the question is whether this opportunity can be used to create a community resource.”
JUST GIVE US THE ‘KING MONEY, etc.
Ahh – but is there the political will for Localism in Colchester? Will the political Careerists be able to let go?
“The extent of Members’ engagement with these ideas and initiatives is critical to their success.”
The Appendix report makes for fascinating reading.
It includes Localism ideas such as erecting [Oooh] a mast on top of the Town Hall to enable a 20km WIFI net to be thrown over Sunny Colch.
As for the Community Right to Bid?
Disclaimer: This is part of The Chronic’s day job…
Basically we’re talking about local groups being able to take over the running of a community asset, rather than allowing it to slip into the hands of the private sector.
Job’s a good ‘n, etc.
A bit like:
Building Works in Conjunction with Colchester Castle Redevelopment Project.
Cabinet has been asked to:
“To agree to proceed with building works to be undertaken in conjunction with the Colchester Castle redevelopment project.”
People that use to live in stone houses are unlikely to be throwing stones.
Having already held the publicity hungry press conference with the Portfolio Holder for Culture doing the big cheesy grin, it is highly unlikely that Cabinet won’t agree to this particular agenda item.
Safe as houses.
Which sorta brings us to:
Re-procurement of the Services Agreement at the Community Stadium.
Basically we’re talking about CBC and the huge own goal that would be to allow another organisation other than Colchester United to manage the Community Stadium.
As freehold owners of the Community Stadium, five-year lease was handed out by CBC to the U’s back in August 2008. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to see that much like the U’s season, time is ticking away.
Extra time anyone?
That’s certainly the view of Cabinet, which is set to hand out a further ten year period for Colchester United to manage the stadium. The goals for and against columns seemed to be stacked in favour of CBC with extra revenue being built into the new agreement.
If only ten year stay of executions were possible when it comes to relegation…
The CBC Cabinet meeting on 23rd January in the Grand Jury Room is an open meeting for any residents. You can Have Your Say for three minutes at the start of the session.
The Chronic will personally buy half a pint of shandy for any Sunny Colch pranksters that manage to build into their speech a metaphor about recycling food / Councillors that contains a football reference, and concludes with an audacious Right to Bid offer for Mr Mayor’s Parlour.
Your three minutes of shame starts NOW Comrades.