South Gloucestershire’s ruling Conservatives have abandoned any plans to reduce green bin charges for at least a year despite this being their top election promise – and have blamed the Tory Government’s tough budget settlement for it.
The Conservative Administration’s first majority budget was discussed by the council’s Policy & Resources Committee yesterday, and opposition councillors understandably questioned the omission of this clear pledge to the electorate. The ruling Tories had campaigned on a pledge to phase out the £36 annual charge if they were elected to run the Council. Yesterday, however, the Conservative leadership admitted that this would not happen in 2016 because of a fall in Revenue Support Grant from the Tory Government, resulting in a “very tough” settlement.
Labour councillors on the authority say that given the Government’s stated policy on austerity cuts the big drop in grants is entirely predictable, and that the Tories must have known this when they were electioneering.
Labour’s lead on finance matters, Councillor Adam Monk, comments:
“Yesterday we witnessed the spectacle of the Tory council leadership blaming the Tory government for making them break their election promise. When pressed at the meeting, the Conservatives confirmed that their promise was still an ambition, but I cannot see how this will ever be affordable. With future budgets promising to be every bit as tough as this year’s, it would be outrageous for the Tories to pursue this policy just to save face.”
When questioned, the Conservatives could give no timetable for when they might start implementing their pledge, just stating that it would not be this year.