Thursday, 3 March 2011

Council Tax frozen, but Conservative cover-up on cuts

Lib Dem Leader Ruth Davis used her budget statement last week to back the proposed South Glos Council Tax freeze and warn against hidden cuts in the Conservative budget proposals.

Explaining why the Lib Dems could not support the Tory budget, Cllr Ruth Davis said, “I wouldn’t want anyone to be deceived by this bland balanced budget with its cover up of words like ‘savings’. Many of these ‘savings’ have yet to be worked out and until you make the details public there will be no guarantee that these ‘savings’ will not actually be CUTS. I want to highlight that the Conservative Cabinet are not prepared to give us the details to make these public”

On the Council Tax freeze she said, “Contrary to your scaremongering stories we will be voting for the zero Council tax rise because, if we are in the administration next year, we believe that we can do things differently within that overall figure next year and in subsequent years”

“Four years ago we promised we would provide constructive opposition in order to protect the services, needs and rights of South Gloucestershire Council residents. We have kept our side of that agreement and have influenced and challenged and achieved changes over those four years that include such successes as; plastic kerbside recycling, protecting the green belt and a state of the art Youth CafĂ©. If we can do this in opposition, how much more can we achieve in Administration?”

Cllr Davis said the Lib Dems would prioritise protecting the vulnerable, older residents and children’s services and called for localism in action. “We believe in working with local residents to create the community they would like, not imposing things upon them nor doing things to them. We firmly believe that residents should be given a seat at the decision making table, because if you are not at the table there is a risk you or your service or needs could be on the Cuts menu. Localism in action doesn’t mean cutting the budgets to community groups but instead bringing everyone together to work out what’s best for their neighbourhood. That is the way communities and individuals prosper and grow, creating their own diverse solutions.

“We need to grasp the freedoms given under the new government to ensure all communities are able to have serious influence and power over what is done in their area, rather than skewing resources to meet central government targets that were set by the last Labour government. We would do this by ensuring all the public organisations and local service providers are open to questions at Local Area Action Groups that are based on neighbourhoods that residents define, not the Council nor other organisations such as the Police or the Health service. We would aim to build on the best safer and stronger groups, parish and town council and Area forums that already set local priorities. Each neighbourhood can choose the right structures for themselves and hold the people who provide services in their area to account”

She concluded, “My colleagues will speak on issues and opportunities that they would want to be investigated if we were the Administration and in May we hope to convince the public that our vision is worth believing in. I make the following promise, that when the Tories eventually have the courage to make their plans public we will be checking exactly what impact any proposals will have on residents’ services to ensure that the savings are just ‘savings’ not CUTS!”

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