Liberal Democrats respond to South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet budget proposals

Commenting on Conservative Cabinet budget proposals Leader of the Lib Dem group Cllr Ruth Davis said,

“The Lib Dems have already raised concerns that the Conservatives are masking cuts under the name of service reviews. As there are no details of the revised plans you’re asking opposition councillors to allow you to sign blank cheques. If the service reviews were really about making the Council more effective and efficient then they would not be considered as part of the budget process. We remain convinced that your reasons for rushing through these important and essential organisational changes are not about providing better services for the public and but instead are just about meeting national Conservative party demands for cuts in public services.”

She continued, “Rushing through cuts to council’s staffing levels in order to keep in line with Conservative national party politics is not looking after the local public interest. We accept that the Council has to do things in the most efficient way and that might mean a change in the way things are done. However, we are worried that cutting staffing levels too fast will mean disruptions and loss of services to the public. It does not bode well for local decision making when local Conservative politicians blindly follow a national instruction to keep to a certain level of council tax increase instead of working out what is best for the local needs of South Gloucestershire.”

Speaking during the Cabinet meeting Cllr Davis said, “I believe that ICT (Information computing technology) is the real risk to being able to deliver the services reviews.* With ICT experiences out in commercial and public organisations we know you are often promised the earth but don’t get it; and what you do end up getting costs more than you expected! I do not think it will be for lack of officers trying to deliver the service review savings but the reality will be different. I just don’t think you can be certain that these savings will be delivered. And then to put a further saving in on the basis of re-jigging the reviews is not justifiable.”

“What will happen is that when there’s a shortfall in the savings promised something else will go that we don’t want to cut. We know that whichever party comes into power after the General Election will be making cuts to public sector funding and I don’t want to see the SG residents suffering for the sake of making cuts to fit with pre election party politics now. I genuinely believe that something we don’t want to see cut will be cut if the savings in reviews are depended upon. In this instance I would rather be more of a ‘conservative’ than the Conservative group. The Lib Dems will be unable to support this budget as it would be a case of supporting a blank cheque.”

She concluded, “We have seen the budget consultation feedback which showed the people who responded were happy to keep moderate levels of increase in council tax in order to preserve the levels and variety of council services we all currently value and enjoy. The Conservative plans to rush through the service reviews in two years instead of three could jeopardise the Council’s ability to deliver the vital services and advice to the public. The Liberal Democrats will not be able to support any budget which causes direct or indirect loss of frontline services.”

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