It started off civil enough, with the newly appointed Ceremonial Mayor - Barton Councillor John Mullen taking the (virtual) chair for the first time and some rather touching words regarding Councillor Derek Antrobus who is stepping down this year, The Mayor highlighted the work they had both undertaken together on the Kersal Wetlands and flood defence system.
But pleasantries dispensed with, it was back to business and Salford Council with its majority Labour council unsurprisingly passed a 'No Cuts' budget this morning which will see a rise of 3.99% and an additional £10 increase upon the Greater Manchester Mayor Police and Crime Precept, despite opposition in the form of an amendment put forward by the Salford Conservatives.
In a meeting filled with the political bluster, grandstanding and posturing that we have come to expect from both sides, Mayor Dennett spoke of the significant financial risks faced by Salford as it continued along the path of uncertainty in the years ahead, with a further shortfall of £21million to find in the budget within the next two years alone, not counting the £10.9million in cuts made this year.
He acknowledged and welcomed the £121million in support from Central Government to help with the pandemic but was quick to mention the cuts which had taken place and done their damage already.
Councillors in the Conservative seats had proposed an amendment to the budget which they say would have negated the need to see a Council Tax rise but it was quickly slammed down by members of the ruling Labour body who were just as quick to point out the staggering £222million in cuts that have already been stripped by Central Government since they arose to power in 2010/11.
The Conservatives argued that the shortfall could come from earmarked reserves but Labour Mayor - Paul Dennett, was quick to point out that that money was reserved for a reason, that reason being that as the City heads into an uncertain future then it needs to be in a position to deal with whatever that future holds.
The conservatives suggested that the money could be replenished from what were referred to as 'efficiencies', which in realistic terms is pretty much another way of saying future further loss of jobs and reductions to already stretched services.
Regardless of the fierce political debate going on across the room, it was never in any doubt of the outcome of the day, as Labour voted to back the proposals, it was blatantly clear thought that with an all out election edging ever closer in May, the political wheels in Salford are very much now back in motion with all sides looking to capitalise as best they can.
Both Councillor Robin Garrido and Les Turner were quick to posture the Conservatives as the party of the people in Salford, claiming that they were the only party trying to prevent the tax rises that they claim would bring misery to Salfordians.
The only problem we can see in that is the money will still have to come from somewhere to replenish the reserves and unless a magic money tree is found or someone refunds the cash for that disastrous track and trace app, then that money will have to come from cuts to services and job losses. Essentially it will still come from the public pockets either way. It could also be argued that the bulk of the misery has already come to pass as the local budget has been stripped away to a pittance of what it formally was over the time span of just over a decade.
Rest assured though, as the covid pandemic looks to be coming to an end, the political rumblings within Salford are just getting started.
There were no winners today, just losers as the people of Salford are now expected to pay more, AGAIN.