Just wanted to post something short about the Lib Dems’ approach to the Wokingham Borough Council budget this year. The Wokingham town centre regeneration creeps in towards the end – but it is such a large part of the council’s spending plans, it was kind of inevitable I had to mention it when talking about the budget.
The Conservatives voted through a 1.9% Council Tax increase. We proposed a Council Tax freeze, based on taking the freeze grant available from the government, increasing some of the savings targets slightly (particularly the one related to contract management, as the council has about £100 million in contracts and even a small percentage saving has a huge impact), getting rid of the money paid to Conservative councillors for acting as Deputy Executive members and directors of the council-owned companies, and taking a relatively small amount from reserves.
We also proposed cutting the cost of the garden waste service from £60 a year to £45, as on the information given to us, the council are making a profit from that service.
The Conservatives attacked our proposal and voted it down. They have even been claiming that we would bankrupt the council. However, the amount we were proposing to take from reserves is actually less than the amount that will be left over and unspent out of this year’s budget. And it’s much less than they have had left over at the end of each of the last 4 years before this.
The Conservatives like to accuse the Lib Dems of financial incompetence. But it wasn’t the Lib Dems who presided over the investment in Icelandic Banks which led to the council losing the use of £5 million for 6 years (and more), without any interest being paid. The council won’t get all the money back – although we will get most of it, eventually, to be absolutely fair.
Also at the budget meeting we made a proposal about town centre regeneration that will cost a great deal less than the £95 million which the current scheme is due to cost. The way the finances of the current regeneration work, the Conservatives had to include £1.671 million in this year’s budget as a special item to forward fund their scheme. That sort of forward funding would not have been necessary with our scheme.
And Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate Clive Jones asked about the spend so far on the regeneration, and was told it was £15.1 million. That’s about £230 for every household in the Borough. As a point of comparison, the 1.9% increase in the Council Tax that the Conservatives brought in this year will raise the equivalent of £23.17 for every household – or just enough to pay 1/10th of the cost SO FAR of the regeneration.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?