Speaking in the budget debate in Fife House Alex Rowley said;
In moving this amendment today I would like to thank the finance officers that have been supporting the Labour group in examining the budget options and in more general supporting us to develop the budgets around the policy ideas we are working on.
I would also like to welcome my dear friend and comrade Willie Clarke back to the council chamber today after his recent operation and say long may he continue to be here.
Over the last five years the Labour group in Fife Council has sought to put forward ideas based on the premise that any budget must be based on clear policy direction and clear political vision.
The problem for us is not that we have not brought forward any ideas or thoughts on policy and direction for Fife Council. It is that the views and proposals we have brought forward have been continually rejected out of hand by the SNP Lib Dem coalition – who although themselves are bereft of any policy ideas or political vision, have been unwilling to accept any such views from other parties.
Can I say Provost there has been proposal after proposal and we will publish these in the coming days and indeed many are contained within this amendment. But, let me mention just one that featured at the PERFAM meeting last week.
It was Labour who said over the last few budgets that we had too many directorates within this council. It was Labour that said we could and should reduce the number of Executive Directors within this council.
And it was the SNP Lib Dem Coalition that rejected this out of hand.
Now, it took an executive director to say he was leaving and then the leadership of the chief executive to step in to say actually we can do without an executive director and we can do away with a directorate – that put our proposal into practice.
It should not have to be that difficult for any political party in this council to get their thoughts and their ideas considered. That is why in this proposal, we set out clearly today a new way of linking budgets to policy priorities, a new way of ensuring that all parties and the wider community of business, industry, the voluntary sector and service users can have meaningful input into the budgets and to setting the priorities of Fife Council.
On Education we have praised the staff, the pupils and the parents for their hard work over the last five years. But we have also listened to these groups, to these people, and to the concerns they have of the immense pressures in our schools. And as is often described, having to walk a budget tight rope.
So we are setting out here today how we now intend to make sure that all these people have a voice in the future direction of education in Fife. And how all these people will have a say on setting the budget priorities for education in Fife.
We will take people with us. We will together face the difficult decisions.
And, we will ensure that every penny spent on education makes a difference in the classroom – for if it does not make a difference in the classroom, then it will not be spent. That is how we will move education forward in Fife.
Can I say provost the way we will make sure the money is spent on the priorities is by a new approach that looks at every penny, a move away from looking at the edges to asking what we are doing, why are we doing it and what does it cost.
We have repeatedly called for such an approach to social work.
We now have the chance when it comes to health and social care not only to examine all expenditure but also to bring together all budgets; both council and NHS spend on health and social care. And in doing so we will shape a new service that will once again put Fife at the fore of care for older people and most important once again put people first.
So we can bring about radical reform that is badly needed to improve care for older people and focus the whole budget so that the substantial resources we have here in Fife are put to best use for services here in Fife.
But also we can focus on the other side of social work – there must be a coming together of social work and education that yes deals with the crisis and risks but also focuses on the preventative work.
Too many children in Fife are on the at risk register, too many children being referred to social work and too many children being brought up in fear and in misery.
Every child deserves the best chance in life – I am full of respect and admiration for our workers on the front line many running with a case load averaging 30.
We need to listen to them more – we need a stronger role for the independent sectors as well, not just being handed down budgets, but being valued and given a real say – but in short, we need more investment in early years, in family centres, in projects to support young families.
We will take the chance to listen and to make sure that all the council – the whole council focuses on ensuring that every child has the chance to live a life free from abuse, that every child can achieve their full potential regardless of where they were born or to what social and economic circumstance they were born into.
This has to be our key objective when drawing up budgets here in Fife. This will be our key objective when spending tax payers money here in Fife.
That is why budgets are so important and that is why we need a new approach to budgets. Start for scratch – zero based budget – this is what is needed and this is what we propose today and this is what we will deliver.
We also in this proposal focus on staff.
We are less than convinced by the workforce change programme being pursued by the SNP Lib Coalition.
This has already cost the Fife taxpayer £15.9 million pound and the projection is a further 40 to 50 million pounds more.
£65 million to put people out of work at a time when we should be doing all we can to put people into work.
And that is why provost we have today announced a plan for jobs that we will introduce within days of taking office in May.
Key to that plan is a bringing together of all interested parties to look forward and bring about new and bold initiatives. We will commit £5million over the next three years to get people the skills, the qualifications and the real workplace training and experience and that will deliver much needed jobs here in Fife.
We will re-establish the pro business council – the council that is open for business and the council that puts people first.
Putting £5 million to work to get people into work – versus £50 million pound to put people out of work.
Using tax payers money to support communities – versus dictating to communities telling them what is good for them
Standing up for Fife and putting people first – versus putting narrow party interests first.
This is what separate us in this chamber today and this is what separates us in our approach to this budget today.