Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Axeman Cometh

In my current campaign to be elected to Manchester City Council, one of my manifesto pledges is that I would always oppose increases in council tax and try to get it reduced significantly (significantly to me means at least 10%) then it's reasonable to ask what I would cut. Some people might think it's far-fetched being as Labour have increased council tax yet again and the Lib Dems are only promising a cut of less than 1%.

A good start would be to delete all or most of the budget for “Cultural and Related Services”. In 2006-2007, the budget for this was £66,506,000. By comparison, the budget for roads, highways and public transport services that year was less than half that, which shows a pretty strange set of priorities if you ask me.

Let's go through the itemised list of what this was for and see what we can take an axe to:

£96,000 – Archives spending. I'd have to look more closely into what this includes, but presumably the council needs to keep old records for future use, and it's a tiny part of the overall budget, so I'd leave it alone for now.

£3,825,000 – Arts development and support spending. Delete this completely. Art isn't something that should depend on handouts from the State. Art is generated by the creative impulses of the human mind, and it should be paid for by those who enjoy it.

£4,689,000 – Community centres and public halls spending. This probably won't make me popular, but I would vote to delete this part of the budget too. If there's a demand for such facilities, then they should be financed voluntarily by the people who use them.

£5,376,000 – Heritage spending. I'm assuming this includes maintaining the various monuments and historic buildings that come under council control. This should be phased out and responsibility for this should be turned over to charities and local voluntary groups.

£14,255,000 – Library spending. This is a problem. In principle it's another case where I'd say it should be paid for by those who use it. On the other hand, libraries are such useful facilities for supporting education, job hunting etc that I'd be very cautious about making any radical changes. If anyone has any practical ideas for making the library service voluntarily funded while still keeping it free at the point of use, I'd appreciate the input.

£6,560,000 – Museums and galleries spending. This part of the budget can and should be deleted. I do like visiting places like the Science Museum and the Art Gallery when I've got time, but not everyone does, and should my entertainment be funded by other people? I would advocate a rolling programme of transferring ownership and control of museums and art galleries to charities, volunteer groups and the private sector.

£14,764,000 – Open spaces spending. Parkland and suchlike, in some cases just waste ground that the council has grassed over. Local community groups should normally be responsible for this kind of thing, and in most cases they could probably do the job a lot cheaper.

£9,377,000 – Sports and recreation facilities including golf courses. Should be paid for by those who enjoy them. Privatise them.

£5,810,000 – Theatres and public entertainment. What is this, the Roman Empire, with Caesar laying on entertainment to keep the public quiet? I like going to the theatre when I can afford it (and it happens that we've got a lot of good amateur theatres around Greater Manchester) but I don't expect other people to subsidise my nights out through council tax. Delete this budget.

£1,754,000 – Tourism spending. I don't think I've ever met anyone who has visited Manchester due to promotion by Marketing Manchester. People come from the outside because they've got relatives in the area or there's some particular aspect of Manchester or it's history that interests them (football being an obvious example). Another budget that can be deleted with no problem.

Does a decent cut in council tax still sound far-fetched?

1 comment:

Malpoet said...

All dead right Stuart.

The process of allowing people to become responsible adults again; people who care about their community and want to look after it, starts with them having involvement and responsibility.

Handing over parks, halls and other facilities to local charities and community groups is an important stage in dismantling wasteful, intrusive and damaging government.

As far as libraries are concerned, there should be a transition to volunteer staffing and distribution of the facilities to community centres. Many millions of books are given to charity shops and sold for trivia on Ebay aw well as being simply thrown away. Not all of them would be useful, but once people get used to the idea of contributing to a community resource it will be possible to build a computing, reference and general reading resource that is community owned and run.

It should be a next step as Libertarians for us to identify areas to cut spending in our Councils. In addition to those you have listed we need to identify the fake jobs, excess management and inflated salaries. The Freedom of Information Act needs to be used to expose some of this.