Statement on the budget from Councillor Adrian Knapper

George Osborne says his top priority is cutting the deficit.

But in order to get the deficit down, you need to keep economic growth up and you need to keep unemployment down.

You don’t get borrowing down by pulling the plug on support for business, throwing people out of work and stifling economic growth.

The Chancellor delivered a budget that will throw people out of work, hold back economic growth and damage the public services we all rely on ““ and increased VAT from 17.5% to 20%, so that higher prices will be paid in the shops by everyone, from pensioners to the unemployed

The Tories’ cuts are unfair to families and older people: cuts to the disability living allowance, cuts to help for the jobless, cuts to tax credits, cutting back free school meals, and cuts to Child Benefit, which they have frozen for the next three years.

What the country needed was a Budget to support economic growth, protect jobs and cut the deficit fairly. Instead the Tories gave us a reckless Budget that pulls the rug out from under the recovery. And they couldn’t have done it without the support of the Lib Dems, who have let down everyone who voted for them in the election just a few weeks ago.

Concessionary fares – How about Free Travel for Young People & Jobseekers?

Under Labour the introduction of free bus transport for the elderly and disabled has maximise citizen mobility to use public transport.

Due to the scrutiny of Councillors to stop plans by the Conservative/Independent Lib Dem cuts within its budget plan to reduce Bus Service Council Subsidy and use of free travel prior to 9am, people with Concessionary Bus Passes have retained the rights to use this service.

Whilst Councillors have protected the existing scheme for pensioners and disabled people, Councillor Adrian Knapper would welcome the extension of this scheme for all young people in full-time education or training up to the age of 18, as well as for all jobseekers.

The current Conservative/Independent Lib Dem Administration is now planning to review all Council Services via a Root & Branch review that will result in Stoke-on-Trent City Council making policy changes on the way in which services are delivered.

If the City is serious about ensuring that we meet the challenge of climate change, the City Council must work to ensure that the Potteries has a reliable Transport Network that is accessible to all and that the cost is reduced to a reasonable level to encourage more people to use the service.

Free Travel extended to young people will allow the next generation the rights to access education and leisure facilities that will allow them to explore their full potential across the North Staffordshire Region.

Councillor Knapper would welcome serious expession of debate on how people think Public Transport needs to be improved and made more accessible.

Is the future Parish & Town Councils

Better Local Governance with Power to the People

Recommendations to reduce the number of Councillors upon Stoke-on-Trent City Council to 45 members will result in increased demands on time. The role of an elected member is to balance the role within the community and role of work at the Civic Centre.

The fourteen recommendations from the governance report include the need for devolved governance and more local engagement.

Since the City Council became a Unitary Authority, there as been a lack of understanding that the role of being an elected member at this level of local government is about giving clear strategic direction.

It’s my belief that this is down to the fact that Stoke-on-Trent has the missing link of Parish/Town Councils that with devolved (ward) budgets and local neighbourhood management teams can address the needs of local communities. There is a need for a lower tier of governance arrangements that address local issues and problems, at present local concerns are addressed via AIT/DDG but its clear that their is a need to review these arrangements with some element of an elected role/position to neighbourhood boards.

Parish/Town/Neighbourhood Councillors (unpaid) working in partnership with other agencies and neighbourhood management teams could then deal with local issues such as fly tipping, cleansing of community streets, maintaining public space and other local devolved solutions.

This will then allow elected City Councillors to be more engage in moving forward such issues as Regeneration, Education and more strategic issues needed to progress the City forward.

The problem is that last City Council meeting demonstrated the breakdown of politics and that more work needs to be done to rebuild confidence that in future years an improved system of governance arrangements are in place for Stoke-on-Trent.

My own private view is that this can only be achieved by the development of two tier governance arrangements of Community Neighbourhood Boards and a Strategic City Council.

Let’s debate does Stoke-on-Trent need Parish/Town Councils (local neighbourhood boards).

You can now follow me on Twitter @adrianknapper