Tories pro-growth budget nipped in the bud. Cheshire West and Chester Conservatives have slammed Labour’s Budget plans, which they say will hit residents hard in their pockets. The ruling Labour administration on the council, rejected a package of budget proposals designed by the Conservatives to present a lower council tax bill to residents and boost the borough’s economy.
Instead, Labour’s budget was approved and residents will be receiving the highest tax rise since the council was created 10 years ago at 4.99% (2.99% on council tax and 2% on adult social care).
The Conservatives tabled a fully costed alternative requiring 1.5% on council tax (whilst agreeing to 2% on adult social care) in a bid to focus on hard working families and low and fixed income households but were voted down. The pro-growth agenda from the Conservative lead council prior to 2015 has delivered higher than expected council tax funds leaving £6m in a reserve fund.
Cllr Lynn Riley, Conservative Group Leader said: “Most people will wonder why their taxes are going up again when the council has underspent its budgets for the past 2 years and a surplus exists with no plans in place as to how to spend it. “This seems unfair to us. We always want to keep council tax as low as possible an in 7 years only put the council tax up by £43. It’s gone up by £240 in only 3 years under Labour and at a time when we are expecting interest rates rises in response to the growing UK economy. We have to conclude that Labour want people to struggle to make the political points about cuts”
The Conservative budget would have protected vital extra funding £1.6m into vulnerable children and £5m for adults and allocated new funding for pothole, pavement and parking priorities to keep our residents and businesses moving. With millions of pounds tied up in costly projects like Barons Quay, Northgate and now Winsford, the Conservative alternative budget allocates funds for a new approach to attracting inward investment and jobs.
In an attempt to put the £6m windfall from extra council tax receipts to use, the Conservatives have proposed the creation of a £3m Energy Innovation Fund to deliver more green schemes to help alleviate fuel poverty, drive down carbon footprint and bring new income streams into the council to fund frontline services.
Cllr Stuart Parker said: “Our thinking was to dust off the plans made prior to 2015 when the council changed hands to Labour. “Our sustainability commission of inquiry identified ways to deliver services in a carbon neutral way and schemes like solar panels on council house to help those in fuel poverty and provide an income to fund other green projects.”
Cllr Lynn Riley added: “The technology has moved on and people want to see tangible projects not talk on climate change and air quality. With key partnerships in place with Chester University at Thornton and the councils own joint venture with Engie, we really should be doing more. ‘People will rightly question why council tax is going up to fund borrowing to change street lights to LED, yet the council has unexpected cash but clearly no ideas how to spend it.”
“Labour might have ditched our budget but don’t ditch our ideas out of political dogma. With the science corridor running through Cheshire West, we are ideally placed to lead international energy innovation and the council should be doing all that it can to support this.”