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Labour in bid to save front-line services
12:00pm Saturday 16th February 2013 in News
THE Labour group at Swindon Council is making a last-ditch bid to reallocate about £1m in the budget to save some front-line services.
It also aims to boost funding to tackle potholes and unemployment.
The group will table a motion to amend the Conservative administration’s budget proposals, which aim to plug a £15 budget gap, when full council meets to set the budget for 2013/14 at the Civic Offices, in Euclid Street, on Thursday, February 21.
The Conservative’s plans include £3.4m of savings from cutting about 100 council posts.
Labour plans to re-allocate about £1m by cutting senior management costs, consultants’ costs and the cost of councillors, using the money to increase spend in areas it considers a priority.
The party would reinstate £70,000 to the community transport fund, £190,000 to children’s centres, and £200,000 in bus subsidies. It also agrees with the Conservatives’ decision not to slash the £20,000 for Threshold Housing Link.
Labour would increase the road maintenance budget by £220,000, specifically to address potholes, boost the adult learning budget by £100,000 and add £100,000 to the Plan 500 budget for extra apprenticeships for youngsters.
The party would also use £100,000 to create a new council tax hardship fund to help households struggling as a result of changes to council tax benefit.
Labour group leader Coun Jim Grant said: “We don’t believe that it’s right that the council’s consultants budget increases while frontline services like social care, child protection, pothole filling and street cleaning are being cut back so dramatically.
“This budget amendment won’t be able to save every frontline service proposed to be cut and some might be disappointed that we have chosen to save another service rather than theirs.
“But we have prioritised those services that serve the town’s most vulnerable people and value for money services, like road resurfacing.”
Coun Grant acknowledged that Labour had not proposed to reverse the Conservative’s proposal to save £99,000 by reducing staffed opening hours at libraries, but said there was a limit to what could be credibly delivered.
Coun Rod Bluh, the council leader, accused Labour of dealing in headlines, not facts. He said: “I would think it’s a predictable, opportunistic budget. They’ve only amended £1m of the savings , they’re accepting £14m of our savings.”
Coun Stan Pajak, the Lib Dem group leader, said he would consider Labour’s plans but the group intended to table its own amendment, particularly around maintaining funding for Localities.