We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Response to Spelthorne Budget proposed for 2006/07

February 23, 2006 12:00 AM

Speech by Councillor Colin Strong, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition

Madam Mayor,

I have pleasure in responding to the Leader's speech formally moving the motion to set the Council Tax for the year 2006/2007.

But firstly I would like to briefly comment on the past year.

The new Licensing regime has been transferred to local authorities from the courts and the Council has responded magnificently in rising to the challenge. Both members and officers have worked well together to process and hear the applications and special mention must go to Councillor Sider for his work as chairman of the licensing committee.

The Liveability project has progressed well and residents can now appreciate the improvement to our parks that the £2 million funding from the government has made. At this point I would like to thank both members and officers for the work they have done both for Liveability and the recycling initiatives.

As we look to the future the news for local residents is not good. Conservative controlled Surrey County Council has recently announced proposals to close four Youth Centres across Spelthorne. Two of these four are in Staines. To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, to lose one must be regarded as misfortune; to lose two seems like incompetence.

Youth Centres are precious community assets used by the whole community, not just teenagers.

Liberal Democrats are fully opposed to such closures as we recognise their value to the community.

The Business Delivery Review at County Hall has resulted in millions of pounds worth of cuts to front-line services. I have already mentioned youth centres but across Surrey libraries, grants to the voluntary sector and other key services are being hard hit.

There is no doubt that Spelthorne residents will be badly affected by these Surrey Conservative cuts and the outlook is bleak.

Turning now to Spelthorne and the budget proposals as shown in the green book.

Back in December I warned that the outline 15% Council Tax increase was not realistic and that the government had already indicated their intention to cap any Council that set an increase above 5%. My warning then was ignored as the Conservative group passed the motion for an outline 15% rise.

Now reality has hit home.

But let me make it clear that New Labour must stop the diktats from Whitehall. New Labour bangs on about localism and then removes the power of democratically elected Councillors to decide what level of taxation is right for their area. It is outrageous and we have no hesitation in saying so loudly and clearly.

Madam Mayor, the budget proposed as detailed in the green book is deeply flawed and will be opposed by the Liberal Democrat group.

The Conservative group like to portray themselves as maintaining services with low Council Tax increases. What they don't say is that for years the Council Tax has been kept low by the use of reserves. But now the reserves are beginning to run low. The plan was to increase the Council Tax by 15% but this has been scuppered by the government's capping threat.

With no recourse to the taxpayer the Conservatives have instead proposed large cuts to the services they have always prided themselves in maintaining.

Two of these services are the Day Centres and Spelride. Appendix B clearly shows a reduced Dial-a-Ride service. Cuts that will save a total of £116,000.

We then come to the issue of the Day Centres. We have been consistently told that no decision has been made in respect of closing the Stanwell Centre and Benwell Day Centre.

On page 22, Appendix D2 of the Green book there are the estimates for the Day Centres for the current and next financial year. The outturn for 2005/06 is expected to be £923,020 and the estimate for the year 2006/07 is £851,208. A difference of some £72,000.

The reduced estimate for the Day Centres is, I am reliably informed, due to the savings that would be produced between January and March 2007 when the two centres are closed.

In other words, Madam Mayor, the closures have been built into the budget. It appears to me that the closures are a done deal as the Executive voted on these very budget proposals at a recent meeting.

Councillor Colin Strong - Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition

Councillor Colin Strong - Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition

Despite this bombshell the Liberal Democrats will continue with the campaign to save the Day Centres knowing that the Full Council will vote on the Older People's Review in April.

In conclusion the budget is bad for Spelthorne residents with heavy cuts in services and we shall oppose the motion.