It is disappointing that Cheltenham Borough Council this week confirmed its plans to slash opening hours at Cheltenham’s Swindon Road Recycling centre.
Back in December, the ruling administration decided to downgrade the service despite the backlash from local residents. I have been contacted by many local people upset at the move, and frustrated that it comes despite the Council encouraging us all to recycle more of our waste.
Criticism without solutions is just noise. That’s why I was pleased to see local Green and Conservative councillors come together to put the Council’s finances under the microscope to find the £35,500 of savings that the Borough Council claim the downgrade would save.
Cllr Tim Harman (C) discovered that at the stroke of a pen the Council could find almost the entire sum by reducing the number of ‘cabinet’ members by two. The Council has a total of nine cabinet posts in its administration, despite the fact that other councils in Gloucestershire operate perfectly well with just six.
These ‘cabinet’ post-holders are paid £15,000 over and above their ordinary cash allowance. That’s money which has to be taken away from front-line services and diverted towards councillors. Given the modest overall budget that Cheltenham Borough Council operates, reallocating such a significant sum to councillors and prioritising the cost of politics seems a strange priority.
What’s more, the last two positions were only created recently.
Meanwhile former Lib Dem Mayor, Cllr Wendy Flynn (Green), has noted that ten per cent of this extra cash is passed by those ‘cabinet’ members to her former political party to fund political leaflets – the very things that end up in the recycling in the first place. And she notes that fly-tipping is already going up in the town.
The critics are right on this one. It’s not too late for the Council to think again. Cut councillors, not frontline services.
[Column published in the Gloucestershire Echo]