Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
Council agrees budget - but warns of challenges ahead
7:00pm Friday 22nd February 2013 in News
SWINDON Council’s Tory administration has seen its proposed budget passed by a small margin.
The Conservatives, who hold a slim majority of one, were missing Coun Peter Heaton-Jones at last night’s full cabinet meeting. But had their budget passed thanks to support from the Liberal Democrats.
The Labour party proposed amendments which included further cuts to Forward Swindon and savings spent on addressing potholes and retaining the subsidy of buses, but that was not accepted by the full council.
The Lib Dems did manage to get two amendments to the budget as they were able to decrease the cut to the locality budget by £61,000 and maintain the opening hours in all libraries.
Coun Mark Edwards, cabinet member for finance, said: “This budget is not without risk but it is a positive budget. These are the most challenging financial times that councils have seen. The challenge is far from over.”
Politicians from all parties voted in favour of freezing council tax for the next year, with the final budget proposals aiming to plug an estimated £16m gap in the budget for 2013/14.
Council leader Rod Bluh said after the meeting that he was happy the budget had been passed but expected a tough time ahead.
He said: “It is the right budget for the people of Swindon and this is where the hard work really starts. The Labour amendments were all about grabbing the headlines. My position is quite clear, it is about getting the right balance.”
At the meeting, Labour leader Jim Grant appealed for a number of amendments to the buget, but without success.
He said: “We recognise that tough decisions have to be made by the council in this budget and future budgets.
“With the costs of management and councillors, we believe more savings can be made that won’t affect the council’s performance but can be used to protect transport services to the elderly and the disabled.
“We will do this by retaining the existing level of subsidy to the Swindon Dial A Ride service and the existing levels of subsidy for Swindon’s bus services.
“This proposal will have a real impact on people’s lives and it contributes to what this administration says is one of its key goals – independent living for all people and reduced isolation.
“By cutting the Dial A Ride service and the council’s bus subsidy, this council will take a step backwards in achieving these goals and that is why we’re proposing to save these services.”
Coun Stan Pajak, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said it was a good night for his party.
He said: “We had three amendments to the budget and saw two passed. The libraries, which the Conservatives agreed was a bit harsh, and the localities which will see the seven localities kept.
“This is the hardest of times with money being taken away from local government and there is no option to raise council tax.”
He also defended three of his party for voting against the Labour amendments despite agreeing with a number of their comments and voting for the amendment himself.
He said; “There were a lot of good points that I agreed with like Dial A Ride and to do more on the highways but unfortunately it was not passed.”