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Wokingham Lib-Dems vote against Tory Budget

February 25, 2009 12:00 PM

Angry Wokingham Liberal Democrats voted against the Tory budget at last Thursday's Council meeting at Wokingham Borough Council.

Councillor Prue Bray (Leader of the Lib Dem Councillor Group and councillor for Winnersh ward) said, "The Tories are finally reaping what they have sown in the previous six years. They failed year on year to manage the council's finances and it's finally caught up with them.

"The Council Tax increase of 4.79% is one of the highest increases in the country, and comes at a time when residents are fearful of losing their jobs and their homes because of the recession.

"On top of that, the Tories have started charging for things that were previously free, such as cycling training for schoolchildren, and have hiked up other charges, such as increasing the cost of burials from £279 to a whopping £646. Fleecing the bereaved is not the way to run the council's finances.

"Worst of all, although the Tories were well aware that the safety of our vulnerable children was at risk, they chose to pour £2 million into a call centre whilst cutting the budget for Children's Services. The fact that the Tories knew about their failure to adequately protect our children has only just come to light - I am outraged that they ignored the pleas of council officers to keep our children safe. They must never allow such a thing to happen again.

"The Leader of the Council pledged to make vulnerable children and elderly people his priority, but one of his first acts has been to cut travel tokens, and people between the ages of 60 and 69 who previously had tokens will no longer receive them. This will hit some of the most vulnerable people in the Borough, especially those on low incomes and in areas with poor or non-existent bus services.

"All in all, this is a mean-spirited budget that will hit the worst off in the Borough."

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Extracts from Lib Dem speeches at the Budget meeting last Thursday (19th Feb):

BETH ROWLAND (Spokesperson for Children's Services and Councillor for South Lake ward):

"The backlog of repairs for our secondary schools currently stands at over £20 million. Yet the Conservative Executive has cut this budget by 40%. The Tories are promising to rebuild our secondary schools and, indeed Waingels College rebuild has started. But the next school to be rebuilt won't start for at least another 3 years, and that relies on the Government agreeing to fund it. Our schools have got to last a lot longer, but reducing the maintenance budget is not going to stop the rot."

JENNY LISSAMAN (Spokesperson for Highways and Environment, and Councillor for Bulmershe & Whitegates ward):

"Wokingham Tories have

  • reduced the highways maintenance budget to cater for 'essential works only',
  • reduced the budget for carriageways from £1.5 million to £1 million,
  • axed the budget for pavements completely,
  • axed the budget for highways drainage,
  • reduced the safety and traffic management budget from £300,000 to £200,000. and
  • scrapped the much heralded funding for the M4 noise barrier.

If I had to single out one cut as being particularly short-sighted it would be the cut in highways drainage schemes. We all saw the flooding last week. The Conservatives have got almost nowhere in protecting people from flooding since July 2007. I suppose we will just have to cross our fingers and hope the rain holds off for the next couple of years."

PHIL CHALLIS (Spokesperson for Housing, and Councillor for Loddon ward):

"I am shocked to see that the Tories will fail to meet the target to bring all the council's houses up to the Decent Homes standard by 2010. Last July the Executive told me they remained confident that this target would be met, but they have failed. Imagine how the council's tenants in substandard houses feel - they now have no idea if or when they will be brought up to a decent standard."

MALCOLM ARMSTRONG (Councillor for Winnersh ward):

"The Tories have got their priorities wrong. At a time when residents are struggling to cope and when every penny counts, the Lib Dems have discovered that the Tory administration has spent £32,330 on tea, coffee and sandwiches this past year. That would pay the salary of an extra social worker in Children's Services. The Tory mayor is also planning a lavish party for councillors from the Borough, town and parishes, costing a whopping £3,000. This would pay for more than a thousand meals on wheels for some of our most vulnerable residents. It's time the Tories got their priorities right and stopped wasting taxpayers' money."