Today was budget day and I think we can be proud of what we achieved. We successful passed amendments that will see the introduction of the Living Wage for the lowest paid council workers and free bus travel for apprentices and care leavers in Gloucestershire. We also passed amendments which means more public health funding is directed to area with the highest health inequalities, as well as creating a Community Empowerment Chest to support organisations that support local communities.
Sadly the Tories and Lib Dem’s opposed our proposals that would have prevented £168K of cuts to Children’s Centres in the County. The Lib Dems in particular were more interested in reducing parking charges rather than protecting centres that are badly needed and should have been protected from the 3% cut.
As I had championed them, I was particularly proud to see the Apprentice Travel card go through, as well as changing how we monitor the activities of GFRS in the County Council to pay more attention to the Protection and Prevention work that fire fighters do so well. This latter one I think stumped quite a few people, as it’s a zero cost issue, but when I explained about how the Prevention and Protection numbers being added will better influence budget negotiations in the future, I could see that certain members were a bit upset that they didn’t think of it.
The crown jewel for us has to be the Living Wage, which many people didn’t think we could achieve, but it just goes to show what a determined group of people can do. And I think that is an important factor, we are a good team, we have a wide range of personalities in the county group with wide-ranging opinion, but, under very effective leadership, and a positive attitude, we pull together and work with each other very well.
I have stolen the words below from our press release:
Speaking after the budget, Labour Group Leader, Lesley Williams said: “Today the Labour Party have passed six small amendments that will make a big difference to many people living in Gloucestershire. We wanted to amend this budget to ensure that people who are currently struggling to make ends meet get the support they deserve. We are delighted to have passed the Living Wage amendment. This a Labour manifesto commitment and it will mean that working people who are paid low wages will get a little extra to help them through the cost of living crisis.
“Supporting young people was also a key priority for the Labour Party and as of September new apprentices and care leavers leaving in Gloucestershire will receive free bus travel to help them get to work and to connect them to opportunities. This is really good policy that is good for young people, good for our local economy and good for businesses in Gloucestershire.
“We are also pleased that our amendment to direct more public health money to communities with highest deprivation was also agreed. This will mean tens of thousands pounds will go to the communities where health issues are the most profound.
“We also recognise that in these tough economic times voluntary organisations such as food banks, advice agencies and credit unions are also struggling to meet demand. We have therefore created a community empowerment chest to support those who support the people of Gloucestershire. We hope this money will help organisations do more when there is less funding around to serve our communities.
“There are only 9 Labour Councillors on the County Council and today the Labour Party has successfully amended the council’s budget to get a fair deal for the people of Gloucestershire.”
All that said, its amazing how quickly the feeling of “OK, that’s done, now onto the next thing” came in after the meeting.There is a lot to do and an uphill mountain to climb in the next 3 and a bit years, but if we keep going the way we are, and keep the right attitude based on our core beliefs and values, then it will be most worthwhile.