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Budget Report - West Berkshire Council - from Cllr Lee Dillon

March 7, 2017 9:00 AM
Originally published by Newbury & West Berkshire Liberal Democrats


Cllr Lee Dillon: project will deliver for our young people

Cllr Lee Dillon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Council Group

In 2017 we are once again in a desperate position of seeing a budget being proposed by West Berkshire Council that sees cuts to vital public services because of a Conservative Government which does not recognise the important functions that a Council provides in delivering services to its residents.

From roads to schools to homelessness accommodation to adult social we are being squeezed more and more. Savings pushed through this year will have a worrying impact:

  • They reduce the School Improvement capacity and activity, potentially leading to poorer outcomes in schools and a reversal of our successful improvement programme.
  • Will further increase pressure on children's services
  • Will increase pressure on for support for young homeless people.
  • They curtail the Council's ability to undertake reactive repairs when faults are reported.
  • A number of road safety activities will reduce or stop

These cuts see West Berkshire going backwards not forwards.

Government

Now the Liberal Democrat Council group knows there are hard choices to make with regards to fulfilling our legal responsibility of producing a balanced budget. We disagree with the Tories which services should be cut to achieve this, but we have no doubt that the current Conservative Government should be doing more to support our Council and by definition our residents, so that we don't have to stand by and watch the quality of life in West Berkshire go backwards.

I hope that our MP is looking at this list of 73 savings proposals and understands the hurt that they will deliver to his constituents and the reduction in this council's resilience to deal with unforeseen issues. I hope that he takes back a clear message to Government about how bad things are getting.

Budget Allocations

Our biggest concern in this year's budget is that the transitional grant received from government is to be put into a transformational fund rather than being used now when it is desperately needed.

In the debate on 7th March, we called for transitional funding to be secured earlier for Short Breaks for children with disabilities which could have mitigated some of the pain cuts are delivering to those organisations, the children, parents, carers and staff more assurances in troubled times, rather than leaving them to worry for the many months as they have been.

We also called for continued support for the Citizens' Advice Bureau. The CAB provides an invaluable service to residents across the District and with more and more assessments being needed to access services and benefits. The Council must do what we can to help support the CAB. Online information is useful but there is nothing quite like being able to sit down with someone to talk through a form that you need to fill in, or to get assurance on a process.

Where libraries are concerned, the financial shortfall should have been dealt with much earlier in the year. Also, the misguided approach of proposing to close all libraries in the first instance is clearly why getting to this final solution has taken so long.

Conclusion

So overall Mr Chairman West Berkshire Residents are being asked to pay an extra 5% this coming year.

3% is to be spent on the funding crisis that we as a country face with regards to Adult Social Care and which needs a better solution than this going forward.

Resdients also face a 2% increase across the council tax base, which is asking our residents to again pay more for less. And this increase still is not enough to stop some of our services going backwards.

What a sorry state we find ourselves in.

For these reasons the Liberal Democrat Councillors do not support this budget put through March 2017 by the Conservatives on West Berkshire Council.