Here is what some councillors had to say at the heated budget meeting :
Des Moffat (Lab, Western) said: “The oft repeated £45m over three years is nonsense. The director of finance has estimated that the level of government grant will reduce by £5m on each of the next three years.
At the same time there will be a growth in council tax income by virtue of new housing being occupied and residents paying council tax amounting to £800,000 a year.
There will be a corresponding increase in redistributed business rates taking into account the increase in population.
This is in your own papers; the resulting resource gap is £3.4m.
The second element of the £45m is a stab in the dark as to expected growth in demand and resulting costs the council will need to bear.”
He added: “It is clear from this that not only are you cutting more than is necessary you are cutting more than the Con Dem Government asks you to cut.”
“This is your Tory budget, this is your decision, these are your cuts and they are deeper and harder than they need to be.”
Coun Nick Martin suggested the public were being scared a bit too much by talk of £45m savings.
“Really we have got £15m to worry about. The other £30m is robbing Peter to pay Paul and moving money around. We are not really going to be reducing the overall spend. It will be sustainable spending but we just need to cut our cloth a bit.”
Coun Fay Howard (Labour Parks) said she could not support the budget because pensioners, young people and children would be hardest hit.
She also criticised the decision to reshape Connexions, the support service that helps youngsters who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).
“Who will be there to advise them now?” she said. “Young people will be left to sink or swim – is that the Big Society?”
She added that she thought women and children were being worse hit and questioned why the cost of swimming sessions and creche services were going up, but playing golf at Broome M
There were extraordinary scenes from Coun Steve Allsop (Labour Parks), who stood up and shouted at one point, saying the economic crisis meant that money was being taken from the poorest while the financial services sector was reintroducing bonuses for staff.
Coun Mark Dempsey (Labour Parks) accused the Conservative’s of a return to the 1980s, with VAT increases and budget cuts. And he repeated his call for the town to have a new economic regeneration plan.
Andy Harrison (Lib Dem, Penhill) also said the proposals meant the weak would suffer.
But he also slammed Labour for the state it left the public finances in.
“The death knell has been sounded for the future of all public services in Swindon. Efficiency savings mean the same to everyone – a cut in services.”
He said: “You are planning on outsourcing services at a time when you should be investing in high quality services service users are human beings who need dignity and respect and are not to be patronised to use our services the Liberal Democrats can not support this budget – it’s not right and it’s not the right way to do it.”
Peter Mallinson who is Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care said: “Everyone has got the impression that in adult social care we are going to be making cuts and you are absolutely right lots of them and in some cases this is overdue. “Wastes, inefficiency and over spending and duplication those are the sorts of cuts we are making we are not cutting a single service anyone who requires an assessment will be asset and their needs will be met. “We are here to look after the vulnerable and the people in society who need help and that is actually what we are doing.”
Coun Martin Wiltshire urged the council to take some of the cuts out and raise the Council Tax instead.
Coun Jim Grant picked out some of the council’s expenditure that he thought was wasteful such as spending £50,000 on water and hospitality and questioned why those things weren’t cut sooner. He said: “This council has been found out no wonder with so much waste Central Government can easily ask Swindon to cut £1.4 million when its neighbours got off with far less.” He claimed the effects of the recession were being over stated and pointed out that the country was no longer technically in recession.
Leader of the Council Rod Bluh said: “I am as angry about this situation as you are” but he added:
“This council was a mess when we inherited it we have cut £36 million pounds from the budget so far and services have rocketed and are still in improving” he added “there has not been a single proposal from the opposition tonight.”
He insisted that £45 million that the council has been asked to cut over the next three years was not an imaginary figure he said the expenditure mentioned by councillor Grant was spent years ago and have nothing to do with tonight’s budget.
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