Leics Lib Dems challenge Tory Budget!
Originally published by Leicestershire Liberal Democrats
Last Wednesday, the Conservatives passed their budget with £79 million in cuts over the next four years, £30 million of which haven't yet been identified. They've even had to drop their trademark policy of freezing council tax - they're planning yearly rises of 1.5% starting from next year.
With income from the central government being reduced, these are hard times for any council. The problem is that the Conservatives are making it harder than it needs to be. The budget doesn't excuse the multiple blunders such as:
- Making severe cuts to the school transport scheme last year, ignoring our warnings and concerns. Public outcry forced them to pull the changes, but now the same cuts have re-appeared in the budget to happen after the election.
- By pushing Leicestershire's schools to become academies so quickly, they left the council open to serious risk to changes in funding. Sure enough, the County Council has now lost £5m in funding. The Conservatives complain that it is the national government that is treating them unfairly, but it was the reckless rush to academise Leicestershire that left us exposed to these costs.
- In an effort to save money, the Conservatives pretty much gave away our care homes to a private company and are still waiting to receive payment.
- Residents have been complaining about the seeming managed decline of our roads. Changes in policy mean that residents can now be waiting up to 90 days for a problem to be fixed. Given the damage potholes can cause cars, and the flooding that a blocked gulley can lead to, residents are finding these waiting times unacceptable!
Liberal Democrat calls for £1 million of the spare underspend (money that wasn't spent this year) to be re-invested back into maintaining Leicester's roads and help clear this backlog of problems were ignored.
What the Liberal Democrats would do differently
For starters we'd kick-start innovation and start finding ways to generate revenue to pay for your services. On Wednesday we proposed an amendment to investigate generating income (and green energy) by putting solar panels on County Council buildings. The Conservatives put out several excuses, but the bottom line is that they refused to even look into the possibility of raising income through solar energy.
They say that they "have" to make these cuts, but then outright refuse to even look into the alternatives? We would leave no stone unturned in our attempts to find alternatives to cutting Leicestershire's essential services!
Another thing we'd do is start properly using the reserves to invest in Leicestershire. Nearly £100 million of reserves is being sat on. The Conservatives say that £56 million will be spent over the next four years, but every year they say it will be spent and then every year the reserves increase rather than decrease. No explanation has been given for this. Requests for openness and transparency over this have largely been ignored.
The Liberal Democrats would stop hiding how the reserves are being used and would make sure that they were being properly invested in Leicestershire.
Yes these are difficult times but Leicestershire can, and should, be doing better. The budget showed that once again the Conservatives weren't willing to listen to reason. It's time Leicestershire elected someone who is!