Greens today expressed scepticism over Labour’s plans for the City Innovation Challenge 2016, announced yesterday, offering cash prizes for innovative ideas to meet the council’s budget challenges. According to Green Councillors, the idea is “too little too late”, and cannot substitute for the cuts the administration have made to consultation, engagement and scrutiny of budget proposals by elected councillors and community groups.
Labour’s proposal is to accept ideas between January 4th-February 4th, allowing just 14 working days for ideas to be assessed and added to budget proposals, before the council meets to set next year’s budget. Councillor Morgan has already come under fire from the Conservatives and Unions for the proposals which were rushed out before the council’s Policy and Resources Committee met yesterday.
Commenting on the proposals, Convener of the Green Group, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said:
“The latest competition from Councillor Morgan is just a political gimmick which is frankly too little too late. Under fire from the Greens over their cuts to consultation and engagement over the budget, the Labour administration appears to have cobbled this idea together at the last minute.
“We welcome any measures to meaningfully engage with residents over the budget proposals. But this process should have started months ago, when Greens offered to support Labour in taking a wider conversation to the city. At this point, we are concerned that there will be insufficient time to fully assess ideas put forward and how they will impact on the city.
“I have no doubt that there is a huge amount of creativity and innovation in the city, that’s why we’ve been calling for Labour to use it for months. But the reality is Labour have steadily cut back on openness and transparency since taking control of the council, removing freedom of information requests and financial figures on the openly local website. Residents are now being asked to put forward ideas with very little information about how the council currently operates.
“Innovation and creativity often require risks to be taken, and investments to be made in order to save money in the longer term. The short-sighted cuts proposed to children’s centres and youth services suggests Labour are not thinking in the longer term and unwilling to invest to save. The question is, does Labour have the courage to get behind any genuine innovation?
“The reality is that even 5 fantastic ideas to address budget challenges will barely scratch the surface of the full budget cuts the council plan to make. Until the local Labour party take the fight back to central government, we will continue to see savage cuts to services and visible deterioration of the city.”