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Wokingham Borough Council Budget - Lib-Dem Response

February 22, 2008 12:00 PM

At Wokingham Borough Council's budget meeting last night, Liberal Democrat Councillors opposed the Tory budget.

Councillor Prue Bray (Leader of the Lib Dem Councillor Group and councillor for Winnersh ward) said, "This fantasy budget is the result of Tory incompetence and mismanagement.

"The Tories have brought in a Council Tax increase of 4.94% and have only managed to do that by raiding the Council coffers. The increase is getting bigger every year. Whatever happened to Frank Browne's (Tory Leader of the Council) promise to keep Council Tax increases below inflation?

"One of my biggest worries about the Tory budget is the way that they have treated voluntary organisations. We rely on a range of wonderful volunteers to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community, but the Tories have delayed announcing what level of grant they will get, or even whether they will get grants at all. This leaves many voluntary organisations which rely on these grants wondering whether they will be able to carry on or not. Among the worst hit are Voluntary Action Wokingham Borough, the umbrella organisation for the voluntary sector locally and Home Start, a charity that works with families with young children. Both those organisations are facing closure as a direct result of the Conservatives' decisions on funding. As the Tories axed services to elderly and disabled people last year, it's even more important that these voluntary bodies are given the support they need this year. The Tories signed an agreement last year to show their commitment to the voluntary sector. It doesn't appear to be worth the paper it was written on.

"Another group of people let down by the Conservatives are our tenants. The Tories presided over a dramatic decline in services to our tenants following a major investigation which led to several dismissals of council staff. Major repairs to homes have not been carried out, and other planned schemes have been put off until next year. The Tories were oblivious to the problems going on under their noses.

"This year's Tory fantasy capital programme is even more fantastical than before. Last year they promised to carry out tens of millions of pounds worth of work but fell well short of the target. Based on this experience of failure, what do the Conservatives do? They increase the budget, of course! It's now a massive £131 million for the next three years, with only two snags: no money and no ability to carry out the work. It's time they got real.

"The ruling Conservatives have let us down and they've got their priorities all wrong. There is no way that the Liberal Democrats could support such an uncaring and short-sighted budget."

Note: For comparison with other Berkshire Councils, Reading's increase is only 1.9%; Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is 2.4%; West Berkshire is 3.9%, while Slough (with its many recent arrivals from eastern Europe putting pressure on local services) is on the maximum at 4.99%. Bracknell Forest hasn't set a budget yet.