In tough times, it was good news that the budget agreed by Lib Dem-run Portsmouth City Council saw front-line services protected, while freezing the council tax which helps people’s own tight budgets. And all with less money from central government.
But, as events in Greece show, we can’t live beyond our means for ever as ultimately it is more painful.
The Lib Dems in Portsmouth are keeping services cut by Tories elsewhere in the country – weekly rather than fortnightly bin collections, all children’s centres kept open and opening youth clubs for longer. And the new library in Southsea, opposed by the Tories, goes from strength to strength.
Council spending on capital projects will lever in money from central government and the private sector estimated at £1bn over the coming years – creating a better city and jobs at the same time.
This has been achieved by getting greater value for money – waste collection is costing £1.3m a year less, printing costs are less, even simple things like spending less on metered water.
Inevitably there are job cuts, but these are focused on reducing the management structure so as to have minimal impact on front-line services. A great credit to staff at a difficult time.
News from BAE Systems recently has been concerning. So I have been meeting ministers, council officers and managers from the firm to make sure everything is done that could help it keep jobs in the city beyond the building of the aircraft carriers.
Meanwhile the saga at the football club rumbles on. Central government should look at everything it could possibly do to help the club, but it is also clear there are issues the club itself will have to resolve. They say it is an ancient Chinese curse to live in interesting times. But together I am sure we can face the challenges and make Portsmouth a great waterfront city.