Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire will seek to protect a number of key service areas after budget papers show a small surplus of £1 million in the Council’s finances for the next two years. Explaining the move, Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney says:
“Council services face a very tough time in future years, but in the very short term we believe that we should spend our money to continue services rather than put it aside for a rainy day. The rainy day has already arrived and once we cut services they are unlikely ever to be restored.”
Councillor Rooney points to the ruling Conservatives’ recent decision to cut nine Police Community Support Officers as an example of services that should be protected. Labour will propose to find the funds to retain all nine for the next two years.
Labour’s proposals – which they will present as an amendment to the ruling Conservatives’ published budget at the Policy & Resources Committee on Monday – also include maintaining support for economic development work in the district’s Priority Neighbourhoods for another two years, as the original budget for this work is otherwise due to end this year. Youth services outside the Priority Neighbourhoods are facing cuts and Labour wants to use some of the short-term surplus to soften the blow.
Labour plans to allocate funds to forestall changes to the Council’s welfare grants scheme which assist the poorest residents in crisis need, and will argue against a Tory move to withdraw from the previous cross-party agreement to pay staff at least at the Living Wage Foundation rate.
A number of services would be enhanced in the short-term under Labour’s plans in order to deal with particular service problems regularly raised by residents, including greater capacity for litter removal, gulley cleaning and dog wardens.
Councillor Rooney comments:
“Given the harsh financial climate that councils face, we have been forced to be modest in our ambitions. However, we believe we have gone further than the ruling Conservatives in identifying where services need money now.
The Conservatives have realised that they cannot fund their big ticket item of free green bins on which they fought the election. They should now apologise to the electorate and admit that this idea is unaffordable, which is what we always told the public.”