Sandwell Tories have produced a manifesto this year (sort of… there’s a series of badly designed graphics on Twitter) so we thought we’d fact check it for you.
For a financially competent council
This one is really very confusing considering that they couldn’t even cobble together an alternative budget to present to Council and were so confused about it that the meeting had to be adjourned so that it could be explained to them. They do not seem to grasp that there is a legal duty to produce a balanced budget and they have proven time and time again that they have no comprehension of how local government funding works.
For safer streets
A key tenet of this pledge is “working with the police and local to stop crime” (sic). Not sure who “local” refers to, but if we concentrate on the police part, it’s probably worth reminding them that despite their so-called uplift in police numbers, there are still 1,000 fewer police officers in the West Midlands than in 2010 to serve a larger population, 40% of PCSOs have been lost and the Government’s police funding formula still costs the West Midlands £40 million a year and has left West Midlands Police with a budget deficit of £28.1 million. It would be much easier to work towards safer streets if our police forces hadn’t been decimated over the past 13 years and the Tory government hadn’t axed funding for speed cameras and cut the road safety budget the moment they got into power. Only Labour has a plan to put 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs back on our streets.
Axe Labour’s tax
Firstly, in reference to financial competence, it’s not a tax. Secondly, they would need to take the money from another service in order to fund it or further increase council tax (an actual tax) or other fees and charges, but as mentioned earlier, councils have to, by law, produce a balanced budget. Nobody wants to raise charges, however in the face of £115m cut in real term spending from Government funding, decisions have to be made to provide vital services and protect our most vulnerable. Also, of course, they’d need to win all 24 seats in May in order to even entertain it.
For our greenspaces
Despite going through scrutiny and cabinet, none of the Tories appear to have actually read our Green Spaces Strategy or our Tree Strategy which clearly sets out the £4.5m investment in green spaces in 22/23, a plan for continued improvement in the quality of green spaces, planting of 15,000 trees and the strategy to protect, maintain and enhance our existing tree cover. The Tories say “Labour can’t be trusted to protect our greenspaces”, yet we’re the ones with an actual plan to do just that and have already been implementing it for 12 months.
For an accountable council
The Tory plan for “holding the council to account” is “DBS checks” and “stronger scrutiny”. Putting DBS checks in their manifesto is just plain deceitful given that Full Council, via the Ethical Standards and Member Development Committee, has already agreed to implement DBS checks for all councillors after May.
They say “stronger scrutiny” but they have seats on all of the scrutiny committees and don’t bother to show up. They didn’t even bother to show up to the scrutiny meeting where the budget was scrutinised.
To fight fly-tipping
Now we can’t actually find any detail of their “fight fly-tipping” pledge, but it’s on their graphic. This is another that falls into the category of promising to do something which we’re already doing. We set up the environment response team pilot last year to tackle areas of repeated fly-tipping, historic litter and overgrowth and it was so successful that we have enhanced the offer and set up a permanent hotspot team – you can read more about that here – Long-term solution to hotspots
To summarise their pledges, they either can’t do it unless Government policy changes, they could already be doing it but aren’t, or we’re already doing it.