Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire last night voted against the ruling Conservatives’ budget package, arguing that they were being asked to sign a blank cheque because of the lack of critical detail it contained.
In a speech to the Council, Labour Leader Cllr Andy Perkins pinpointed his party’s concerns about the 2012/13 budget in terms of its lack of transparency, lack of detail and future sustainability, saying:
“Labour supports the Council Tax freeze but the ruling Conservatives have not been open that this has only been possible due to £5.6m worth of sweeteners from central government for setting a zero council tax. Without these sweeteners the Conservatives would have to raise Council Tax this year by 5.0% in order to balance the books – and that, under their new Localism Act, would trigger a local referendum.”
The single largest component to balancing the budget is a series of Transformation Reviews which will deliver £43m of savings over the next three years. However, the detail of what this will mean in terms of services, charges and staff has not been spelt out to councillors.
Cllr Perkins added:
“Councillors were told that the delivery of the savings targets is ‘critical’ to the robustness and sustainability of the budget. Given the importance that these reviews will play one would expect a fair bit of detail. Instead they are covered by just two paragraphs. When we specifically asked for detail on these reviews we were told that the exact impact cannot be confirmed until further work had been conducted.”
“We were being invited to sign a blank cheque without anybody really knowing how millions of pounds worth of savings will be found. In effect we were being asked to trust the Conservatives to get on with it and frankly we do not. Their priorities, such as the large-scale outsourcing of council-run services, will not be in the best interest of local residents and we oppose them.”
Source: South Gloucestershire Labour