TORIES are railing against the latest council budget, which will see a 5 per cent increase in council tax and a 10 per cent hike in parking charges.
The belt-tightening budget for 2023/24 is focusing largely on adult social care and childcare services, but withdrew plans to completely turn street lights off in certain areas to save money.
In a first for the council, Conservative group leader Tony Cox called for the draft budget debate to be adjourned until March to allow time for the group to put forward some alternatives to the current proposals.
Coun Cox said he would ditch both the plans to currently dim lights in certain areas and make a 10 per cent rise in car park charges, whilst abolishing plans to charge for using public toilets.
Coun Cox said: “There had been warnings for many weeks before the original draft budget proposals were published about how bad this budget was going to be, but nobody believed it would be this bad.”
After taking legal advice, Mayor Kevin Robinson called for a vote on the adjournment, which was lost by 24 to 21 with one abstention, with former deputy leader and Residents First member, Ron Woodley, also voting with the Tories.
Mr Woodley said: “We all recognise that this is probably one of the most challenging budgets that this council has experienced in recent years.
“However, that does not mean it should not be challenged, and indeed challenge is required to ensure that resident’s taxes are spent wisely and efficiently.
The Residents First Group tabled four amendments to the budget, including scrapping the charge for car parks and ditching a plan to remove the subsidy for bowling greens, both of which were narrowly lost.
The council voted 24 to 22 to adopt the budget proposals. There were two abstentions.
Coun Cox has called it an “Alice in Wonderland” budget
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