Lets be under no illusion, the cuts are getting deeper and more widespread and the ability for Councils to cope with the reduced funding is pretty much gone. This is not helped by the the insistence that council tax isn’t raised by central government (who try and counter this by giving councils a handout, which is paid for my our tax money anyway). Critical services such as Adult Social Care are underfunded and we can all see that the highways are barely keeping pace with repairs, never mind improving the infrastructure. The people who are hurting most are those at the bottom of the ladder, the low paid, those trying to get on the employment ladder and those who are simply trying to do their best to make ends meet. That is why the Labour Party in Gloucestershire will be fighting for changes in the proposed County Council Budget to help those who really need it. Below are the 8 small changes that we believe will make a BIG difference.
In determining these amendments, the Labour group had a number of guiding principles, to help the most vulnerable in our society, to ensure our proposals are sustainable in years to come and to ensure that they are realistic and achievable.
Amendment One: The Living Wage
The living wage is important. It helps support workers and their families by ensuring they are paid a wage that ensures a fair return for the work they put in and also reduces the burden on the benefit system. I was pleased to be able to drive the initiative to make Quedgeley Parish Council raise all their staff to the Living Wage instead of the Minimum Wage, and this should be the same at the County Council. How can we encourage businesses to provide the living wage when we as a council don’t do it. The Labour Group first proposed this in June 2014 to the County Council in a motion to look at the costs and to develop proposals to deliver it. We have been driving this forward. It can not be done in one round, because it is going to cost a lot of money, GCC is a large employer. Therefore Labour has been spearheading the drive to see how it can be done over a number of years to ensure effectiveness and sustainability.
The Councils resolves to adopt the recommendations made by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee to create an additional local living wage supplement to the pay of all Gloucestershire County Council staff. The supplement will be consistent with the current national ‘Living Wage’ hourly rate and the County Council will review the supplement annually. The costs associated with introducing a Living Wage supplement of £7.65 per hour are £210,826.
Amendment Two: The Apprentice Travel Card
Apprentices are the lifeblood of the trades that we all rely on, from Electricians and Carpenters to hairdressers. Apprenticeships are a great way of learning a trade, getting the right qualifications whilst getting hands on experience. The downside of an apprenticeship is the wages are not great given that the package of remuneration includes the training and supervision. A significant issue is that many apprentices can not afford to the expense of travel to go to their job as this eats directly into their food budget. Therefore the development of an Apprentice Travel Card to provide free bus travel to support their budgets and to encourage more sustainable travel would be a welcome addition to every apprentices wallet/purse.
An offer for ‘young apprentices’ available to apprentices aged up to 24 (approximately 3050 apprentices). Will provide free bus travel for all new apprentices in their first year of the apprenticeship. GCC would offer £200 of travel over 12 months on a smart card either as a ‘cash purse’ with £200 on it or as a smart card with an equivalent value of ‘journeys’ on it. This would cost up to £310k plus an admin/marketing cost of 10% in the first year. Subject to monitoring take up it may be possible later to consider increasing the value of the offer. GCC will offer to top up a card in instalments, issuing a card with £50 on it and we top it up only when it is used. Once our top up runs out the young apprentice could top it up him/herself, like a pay as you go phone.
Amendment Three: Children in Care and Care Leavers Travel Card
There are currently 118 Post 16 children in care (16-18yrs) and 320 Care Leavers aged from 16 – 24yrs. This is a total of 438 young people, of which 90% are aged 18-21.With effective targeting to this relatively small group the take up rate for a travel card could be very high so GCC should assume 100% take up. For consistency GCC could offer the same (£200 worth of travel) as GCC will do for young apprentices. The cost would be £88k plus the costs of administration and marketing.
Amendment Four: Active Together
In the original budget proposals, each councillor is to be given £50k to spend in their division on things that supports health based activities and encourage residents to do more fitness related things. However the Labour Group is concerned that such a blanket sharing will not help the more disadvantages communities who could really use more support therefore the Labour Group proposes to top slice the Active Together funding by £530,000, (£10,000 per county councillor) to fund health projects and healthy living campaigns in Gloucestershire’s disadvantaged communities which have the most significant health inequalities. The top slice is to be divided between Gloucestershire’s six districts based on the number of County Councillors in each district. An allocation of £10,000 per County Councillor will be pooled and collectively distributed by County Councillors at a district level in consultation with local health partners, including Health and Wellbeing Boards and the CCG. The funds will be targeted in communities with the most significant health equalities.
Amendment Five: Community Empowerment Chest
The Community Empowerment Chest would provide grants, of up to £5,000 per bid, to Gloucestershire’s community start-ups, community enterprises and voluntary and charity organisations to kick-start, develop or improve the services they provide the people of Gloucestershire in order to improve community resilience. Organisations would have to demonstrate that the bids would benefit the local community they serve. Funding could be used to pay for training of volunteers, to fund start-up costs for community outreach programmes (such as casserole clubs) and to provide funding for community groups that are running community assets. Funding can also be used to develop community facilities, including youth clubs, and credit unions seeking to promote their services and invest in facilities. Funding would be allocated by a cross party panel of councillors supported by officers.
Amendment Six: Children Centres
Supporting our families and striving to give the best start in life is really important to the Labour Party, therefore the Labour group is determined to protect children centres from funding cuts, no matter how small, and will amend the budget to ensure that Children Centres will not receive a 3% cut to their funding.
Amendment Seven: Suited and Booted
In many cases, aspiring young adults have huge enthusiasm and potential but just don’t have the funds to get the basics together to present themselves properly for interview or to have the basic required tools/books or clothing. Having these restrictions in place which boil down to how much money the family has and can spare is not only bad for the individual but also for our local economy where we are missing out on real talent within the County for the sake of the cost of a hammer, or work shirt. The Labour Group propose a suited and booted fund to be used by Gloucestershire’s 42 secondary schools to provide 16 to 18 year olds that are on free school meals and in education or training (16-18 years) with funds to buy work clothing, tools or books in order to help them find employment, and apprenticeship or vocational training.
Amendment Eight: Fire Service Measures
How we measure the performance of our Fire and Rescue service (GFRS) does not relate to what we want them to do. Firefighters work hard, not only at responding to incidents but on Prevention and Protection activities too, such as home safety visits, inspecting local businesses, community awareness days at fire stations, attending other community events and not to mention getting people into Skillzone to highlight what we can do to help ourselves. Yet the only performance measures we use are how many incidents are attended and how much the Fire Service costs. This means that when budget crunch happens, we focus on a cost per incident and have no figures to work with on the protection and prevention side and see the value of those efforts. This is just wrong, and therefore I am asking that we give more focus on those elements too by adding in the following performance metrics:
- Number of Home Safety Visits Completed
- Number of Business Safety Visits Completed
- Number of “Community Interactions” at:
- a) External Events
- b) Fire Stations (detailed by Station)
- c) Skillzone
We believe that these proposals are affordable, provide realistic achievable aims and are sustainable in future years. They will support those who really need it, and the County as a whole. We will be presenting these at full council this Wednesday.