Labour’s spokesperson on finance issues at South Gloucestershire Council has criticised the ruling Conservatives’ first budget, saying that its only ambition is to attack the poorest.
This week the Conservatives unveiled a draft budget – the very first since they took overall majority control of the authority last May.
One glaring omission from the Conservative’s published plans is any move to reduce the Council’s green waste collection charge. The Tories fought the election promising residents that they would phase out the charge, but at this first opportunity they have reneged on that promise. They had consistently blamed the other political parties for the charge, which had to be levied to balance the Council’s stretched budget in the light of Tory central government cuts.
Labour’s Lead Member for Resources, Councillor Adam Monk, observes:
“The Council took the difficult decision to start charging for green waste, in the same way as the majority of councils across the country, because its finances were so stretched. We have always said that the Tory campaign to reverse the decision was misleading and unaffordable, and we are being proved right.”
The initiatives that the Tories have introduced have drawn fierce criticism from Labour. Three years ago all the parties on South Gloucestershire Council agreed to pay staff at least at the Living Wage Foundation rate. The Conservatives are now planning unilaterally to rescind that decision and pay the Council’s lowest-paid staff at George Osborne’s new phoney “living wage” rate, which is a lower amount. Furthermore, the Conservatives plan to reduce the Council’s welfare grant scheme which helps the poorest residents at times of crisis.
Councillor Monk says:
“It appears that the Conservatives’ only ambition is to tweak the budgets that benefit the poorest, be it residents in need or our own staff. Labour will attempt to block both of these moves by diverting money from a predicted overall surplus. It is totally wrong to put money aside at the same time as imposing these awful and harmful changes.”