Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have attacked the Conservative government’s funding cuts and the Tory council’s secrecy at the Council’s annual budget-setting meeting today.
Conservative councillors voted through their budget which approved £36 million of unspecified cuts over the three years from 2019 to 2022. The precise nature of these cuts, and their impact on services, charges and staffing, remains unclear, despite Labour tabling formal questions before Christmas to obtain precisely this level of detail.
The response given to those questions was that “directors are working confidentially with the administration”.
Labour Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney says:
“Our communities and residents are suffering because of the Tories’ austerity ideology and their obvious disdain for local government over the past 8 years. Officers reported that between 2016 and 2020, local government’s funding will reduce by £4.9 billion or 68%.
In South Gloucestershire we now face an additional £36 million of cuts on top of the millions already stripped out of the budget and the hundreds of jobs lost in recent years. This will pile on the pain, as the new savings programmes also seek to maximise current income streams and state that the council will no longer be able to do as much.”
Criticising the Tory Council’s approach she adds:
“The Tories have frozen us out and instructed directors not to tell us anything useful. In the past, even under Tory control, we have had access to much more budget information and the broad range of options.
They are fostering a culture of concealment at the council. When we question the Council’s Tory leadership about the proposed savings they tell us that further work is being done and will be reported on at some later date.
Instead of answering the big questions, they seek to divert attention with a handful of ‘growth’ items. But close inspection of the papers shows their new fund for Bristol Aerospace visits being removed from the budget after just one year, as is much of the new money for the local Council for Voluntary Service.”