Budget Council 21/2/2019 – Conservative Amendment
Cllr Mike Pollard, Shadow Executive Spokesman on Finance, delivered our Amendment which, in summary, was a combination of modest but significant mitigations in respect of service cuts, accompanied by modest new investment, responsible acknowledgement of key pressures in Adults and Children’s Social Care and a 1% reduction in Labour’s basic Council Tax increase.
- Firstly, steps to allow Ward Councillors, of all political hues across the District, to influence small amounts of spending, via the conduit of Area Committees, to address their priorities as Elected Members. A trial one-off investment totalling £900k supported this measure.
- Secondly, to put a modest £100k back into the Youth Service to assist commissioning of projects designed to address issues surrounding young people’s mental health. We felt that this could be a useful example of ‘invest to save’ preventing significantly greater sums having to be thrown at problems further down the line.
- Thirdly, let us address some of the stuff that residents actually notice – from the first draft of this amendment several weeks ago we proposed to restore the full £1 million cut proposed by the Labour Group in the District Budget for Street Cleansing. The final iteration of the Administration’s proposals revealed this Tuesday belatedly makes good half that amount.
- Finally, on the spending side of the ledger, we proposed to express, with a little cash, Conservative desire to defend what may be deemed the ‘High Street’ of a few of the District’s outlying centres. It may regrettably be the case that the internet succeeds in killing neighbourhood shops, but we are against Council reinforcing that trend voluntarily. We sought to rescind the £300k in additional parking charges in Council ‘pay and display’ and restore the initial free periods of parking, appreciated by local shops and shoppers in some areas until the concession was removed a couple of years ago.
- We noted a couple of years has elapsed, certainly up to a week or so ago, without the long threatened and long resisted introduction of parking charges at Bingley’s St Ives estate actually being put in place. That’s an assumed income of £40k per annum which the Council has, by happy inertia, foregone. We proposed to formalise that foregoing permanently.
Households are facing Council Tax increases way in excess of inflation. The Conservative proposal yesterday was for the main District Council Tax to increase by 1.99% rather than 2.99%.
The Labour group accused us of being irresponsible for building a structural loss of Council Tax, amounting to £1.9m on an ongoing basis. That is indeed a mathematical certainty but only one buried in a whole host of variables.
One key variable is the perennial underestimate of Tax Base growth. It is undeniably ‘prudent’ to have a fixed assumption of annual growth equal to 750 Band D units, but it’s also happily invariably wrong! Just 2 years ago the Band D tax base for 2019/20 was assumed to be 137,752 for Budget projection purposes. The reality (142,200) will produce £6m more in Council Tax receipts than the assumption made just two years ago.
Unfortunately, and inevitably Labour’s Budget was passed without our Amendment, but the Conservatives will continue to fight for you and hold the Labour Council to account.