Council announces key areas of budget and council tax freeze

Warwickshire County Council has announced key areas of its budget allocation and a freeze on council tax for the forthcoming financial year.

Councillors agreed the budget at a meeting at Shire Hall in Warwick today.

At the same meeting, the county council tax for 2013 to 2014 has been frozen at the rate for 2012 to 2013.

The rate for Tax band D has been reset at £1,155.

Council leader Cllr Alan Farnell (Con, Nuneaton Weddington) said: “As in previous years, this has not been an easy budget but the county council plans to continue to invest in Warwickshire’s future.

“We have listened to the concerns of local people and will relocate Leamington Fire Station in a £9 million investment programme.

“We have allocated an additional £7.6 million into roads over the next three years.

“Kenilworth railway station will receive investment and we have earmarked £2.5million for an upgrade of Junction 12 of the M40.

“We have already announced a £3.5 million set of investments under Going for Growth.

This will be supplemented by a further £200.000.

“An additional £2.7 million of revenue will be spent on children’s services, £2.3 million in adult social care, a similar amount on early intervention services whilst we think how best to reconfigure that service and a further £500,000 in services for young people.

“Once again, we do not propose to increase the county council tax which remains at the level set for

2010 to 2011. We recognise that families’ budgets are being squeezed in these constrained times and we remain committed to playing our part in helping them whilst providing residents with value for money.

“We have been able to keep council tax at the same level by making extensive savings, where possible.

“In the last year, we have continued to reduce the amount of buildings that we operate from to cut our costs. We have worked with partners in the district councils, public bodies and the voluntary sector to deliver a range of services more efficiently. We have looked at everything that we do to see if it can be done at less cost and we have passed that saving on to our customers.”

Amendments were put to the Tory-led council by Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillors.

The Liberal Democrats proposed that an additional £1.2 million should be spent on family support, children’s centres and youth support services.

They also wanted a £500,000 fund to support small businesses with start-up grants of up to £10,000, £600,000 invested in public transport, a £400,000 commitment towards community safety initiatives and a £2 million ‘Your Streets’ fund to make travel safer for school children and communities.

Finally, they also asked the council to slash the cost of Shire Hall bureaucracy by £800,000 a year.

Cllr Jerry Roodhouse (Rugby Eastlands and Hillmorton), leader of the Warwickshire Liberal Democrats, said: “We were horrified when we saw the budget proposals put forward by the ruling Conservative group. The Tories want to slash children’s early years and youth services, while doing nothing for public transport, where Warwickshire is now ‘bottom of the league’ nationally. Yet they are allowing costly Shire Hall bureaucracy to carry on unchecked.

“Our budget amendment shows that, even in difficult economic times, by taking tough choices the county council can direct significant sums of money to where it’s most needed.”

Labour councillors wanted £500,000 to be made available to enable the council to keep street lights switched on all night across Warwickshire,

Discussing the proposed amendments Labour group leader Cllr June Tandy (Nuneaton Wem Brook) said: “we have argued against this policy ever since it was agreed by Conservative members last year. The debacle and shambles of the last few weeks have proven how little support there is for this policy and as a result of the concerns that have been expressed we have allocated part of our budget to enable the lights to be switched back on during the night. If any community wishes to have their lights off then the technology is in place for that to happen.”

“One of the savings we have made to help pay for the street lights is to cut members allowances by 20 per cent and to reduce the numbers of cabinet members and allowances paid to support members.

“This would raise almost £200,000 and has for the last two years been rejected by all other political parties on the council.

“We have set aside £500,000 for young people’s services, some of which would go to the Connexions service that helps school leavers and young disadvantaged people to find jobs.

The Tories have cut that budget by 50 per cent and have also made cuts to the children’s centres’ budgets.

“We have also reinstated £400,000 back into children’s centres, so that children across the county will still receive the attention and learning they need. We are supporting our older people by funding a job specifically to look at how we can address isolation in their own homes.

We have also changed the Tory capital proposal from funding a development in Rugby Town Centre totalling over half a million pounds to funding developments of £100k across every borough and district in Warwickshire.”

For more see Friday’s Courier and Kenilworth Weekly News