Despite the tough language from these councillors, they did not indicate a single area where 'savings' or 'efficiencies' or cuts would be made. Instead, they fell back on the Rapid Service Reviews that have been grinding on at a glacial speed for months. We even had a councillor trying to claim that the council as a whole will come in on budget, so some other department will have an underspend that will absorb any overspend in Yardley - an irresponsible view to even suggest.
The electorate in May will be expected to buy a pig in a poke - we will go to the polls without any clear plans to deal with the massive financial problems or any idea where the axe is likely to fall. This is indicative of behaviour across the council, where the politics of desperation has become the order of the day. In Yardley, however, the Liberal Democrats will be the ones who have to make the decisions, as even if Labour win all four seats this year, that will result in an equally divided committee. The council as a whole is a different kettle of fish.
This council knows that it is in deep electoral trouble, that on the 3rd May they are likely to hand over a broken authority, laden with debt, having taken full advantage of the ability to borrow granted to them by a Labour government and having had the benefit of several years of Labour government above-inflation grants. So when the Tories and the Liberal Democrats trumpet their successes over the past eight years, remember that it was thanks to powers and funding provided by a Labour government. Remember also that the current Liberal Democrat and Tory government has ripped £164 of council services away from each resident in Birmingham, but the leafy, Tory-friendly voters of Wokingham have suffered just £19 worth of cuts apiece. The big northern and Midlands cities - centres of highest need - have been hurt the most.
Despite this clear injustice - matched by cuts to the West Midlands Police service and West Midlands Fire Service -
In desperation, the council has been pushing decisions further back, delaying those hard choices and burying its head in the sand with the clear aim of shoving the blame onto an incoming Labour administration. We know that there is a £40-50 million black hole at the heart of this budget, with cuts staved off for a year by a variety of one-off measures - the council tax freeze supported from central government, debt repayment delayed, funding from the NHS and spending from reserves. We know that the billions of council debt built up over the past eight years will have to be repaid. We don't know the full details of what awaits a Labour administration, but it will not be pleasant.
One thing we don't need is a lecture from the councillors who are letting the train crash happen.