The recent publication of the allowances and expenses of Derby city councillors for 2016-17 should cause more than a few raised eyebrows. At a time when the Labour-led council continues to make severe cuts to local jobs and services, the total of £812,749.45 will seem excessive to many in more straitened circumstances.
The figures show that the total each councillor receives consists of a basic allowance of £10,076 a year plus certain allowances such as a special responsibility allowance, travel, subsistence, and carer's allowances. Over half a million pounds is spent on councillor's basic allowances.
In the last four years the council has made cuts of £116 million and intends to make further cuts of £45 million by 2019. Planned cuts for 2017-18 will be £15 million.
The council continues to meekly and slavishly follow the Tory government's austerity policies even though this always affects the most vulnerable in society as local services have been axed and working people's wages have consistently fallen in real terms for over a decade. Simply to say you are anti-austerity is not enough, action is required.
A no-cuts budget could be prepared using council reserves and by borrowing money to restore essential and key services.
Services the council is legally obliged to fund like education support services, libraries and so on, have been cut to the bone.
A range of discretionary services, which carry no legal obligation but have traditionally been funded, include leisure, entertainment, grants to local organisations. These have either been severely reduced or cut altogether.
As an example, Derby Women's Centre, which for years has provided valuable assistance and support for victims of domestic abuse and violence, and is now no longer funded by the council. The support is required as much as ever but the centre and its supporters have to scuttle around constantly trying to raise funds wherever they can in order to maintain some semblance of vital support.
The current Tory government is weak and divided as the recent general election and support for Jeremy Corbyn's manifesto showed. It is time for Labour councils like Derby to be bold and determined to make a real difference and offer hope for the future by ending the programme of cuts.
Discussions include: local government - the next scene of the anti-austerity battle?