The council's budget is 'smoke and mirrors' says opposition leader

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams
The council's budget is 'smoke and mirrors' says opposition leader

The leader of the opposition has called the council’s draft budget ‘smoke and mirrors’ that does not set out enough detail in how to solve the borough’s problems.

The council has released its draft budget, showing its plans for revenue and investment for 2022/23. The council leader has said this is a budget with fewer 'tough decisions' than last year.

Leader of the local independents, Cllr Lynne Jones, raised some concerns, including the many references to 'review' of services.

Cllr Simon Werner, leader of the opposition (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green), echoed Cllr Jones’ concerns.

He said that 'review' was ‘a spin word’ that is likely to end up meaning cuts.

Cllr Werner also claimed that there were not enough plans to in-source council services – even though the borough is planning some in-sourcing predicted to save £65,000.

“There’s a huge amount they could be doing – the highways contract is up for renewal but I see nothing to say they will be in-sourcing that, which they should be looking at strongly,” Cllr Werner said.

He called the contract a ‘dismal failure’ and added that checks on the quality of that service should definitely be moved in-house, otherwise, ‘it’s like they’re checking their own exam papers.’

Cllr Werner also said he wanted to see more CIL in the town centre and criticised the Borough’s financial commitment to tackling climate change.

“£250,000 for a bit of admin support isn’t going to make much difference,” he said. “There needs to be far more ambition. This is a do-nothing budget.”

He repeated his concerns, raised in an earlier meeting on the corporate plan, that the budget’s affordable housing commitment did not go far enough and that more social housing is much-needed.

“Eighty per cent of the market value is not affordable – half a million is not ‘affordable’. This is yet another spin word,” he said.

Cabinet member Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) said in response: “I find it bizarre that the opposition would say, ‘It will be expensive anyway, so why bother?’

“We can’t be pessimistic. There’s a range of options and Government schemes.”

The cabinet is set to discuss the draft budget at a council meeting tonight.

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