THE opposition Liberal Democrats on Warrington Council voted against the Labour administration’s budget calling for more “openness and transparency.”
They proposed an amendment calling for more openness and transparency and more consultation but this was rejected by Labour who approved a budget which will seee a council tax rise of 3.98 %.
Lib Dem Finance Spokesperson Cllr Ian Marks said, “The national economy is stagnant and austerity is certainly not over. It has gone on far too long and the cuts are too deep. The Conservative Government has failed to deliver on business rates reform, the Fairer Funding Review and the much delayed Green Paper on Social Care reform.
“Eleven months ago there was a Peer Review of Warrington Council by the Local Government Association. This made a number of recommendations for change at the Council such as the need to face up to tough decisions like other councils have had to do. We want to know when the ruling group is going to give a progress report on action taken to redress the shortcomings identified.
“The National Audit Office is concerned about the billions of pounds being spent by councils on commercialisation just to raise income. We have severe reservations about some of our Council’s investments such as the Redwood Bank, Together Energy and out-of-town retail investments like Tesco in Bolton and Widnes and Asda in Manchester. We are not convinced the returns outweigh the risks. The Accounts for the last two years have not yet been signed off and a third financial year will be complete in a few weeks time.
“Turning to the actual budget, we again have discriminatory charges against people who cannot renew their green bin collection charge on-line. The differential is now £5 which is a 14% increase on last year. There is very little in the budget about combating climate change. Working with partners we would greatly expand the tree planting programme.”
Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr Bob Barr added, “Some Labour councils like Stevenage involve opposition councillors to help achieve a consensual budget in these difficult times and I welcome this. This year there has been far too little consultation and it has taken place much too late in the budget setting process. Also, it hasn’t been consultation, just briefing sessions. Our amendment called for the Council in their 2021/22 Budget ‘to consult earlier in the budget setting process, involve all members and not just the Cabinet in challenges to the Directorates’.
“Sadly this was rejected which is most disappointing since the Labour Group Leader is on record for saying how open and transparent he want to be.”