‘Money should go to services under threat’

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AS an election draws closer, we get used to hearing politicians making promises about what they will do for us.

It will be harder than ever for candidates in next month’s council elections to convince a cynical electorate that they can deliver on their promises.

The trams debacle, of course, has done nothing for that other important “t” word – trust.

And we must not forget the city council is facing a projected funding gap of almost £100 million within three years.

So it has to be welcomed when political parties come out ahead of the polls and start identifying where they will cut spending in order to protect our most valued public services.

Labour and the Greens have so far promised to get rid of the city council’s £200,000-a-year propaganda sheet Outlook, which prints nothing but positive reviews of the local authority. Axing the Capital’s answer to Pravda is hardly the toughest decision our new city leaders will have to make – but it is surely a no-brainer.

Labour and the Greens are talking about investing some of the money they would save in reviving community-run newspapers.

That would certainly be an improvement – many of those titles are fondly remembered and have far more credibility than Outlook – although councillors might do well to remember that their own market research shows that most people look to the Evening News for the best coverage of council matters.

If some of the money is to be reinvested, then why not in protecting under-threat bus routes or teachers jobs?

These are tough choices and everyone will have their own opinion on what is top priority. But it is only by being upfront about what they will cut that politicians can win our trust in their other pledges.

Building momentum

The latest house price report from the ESPC shows signs of green shoots in the housing market.

Prices are down year-on-year (good news for those seeking to gain a foothold in the market) but, just as importantly, the number of sales in the first quarter of 2012 is the highest since 2008, demonstrating an increased confidence among buyers and sellers.

While no-one wants to see a return to the overheated pre-crash market, a healthy turnover of properties is a key part of a successful city economy. With interest rates likely to remain low for the foreseeable future, a steady increase in the number of sales would benefit all.