COUNTY Labour chiefs have branded a 3.99 per cent rise in Worcestershire County Council’s share of the Council Tax as an increase ‘straight out of Whitehall’.
Labour leader Coun Robin Lunn made the claim after Conservative budget plans were rubber-stamped at a meeting on Thursday (February 14).
The increase will add 93p per week onto the bills of an average Band D property with 2.99 per cent being used to support the authority’s programme while one per cent will be retained to help pay for adult social care.
Council leader Coun Simon Geraghty highlighted the record £14.1million being spent on adult social care for the year ahead and investments for the future of the service.
A further £7.8million will be spent on the authority’s troubled Children’s Services with the aim of obtaining a good rating from OfSTED inspectors.
After listening to residents, proposed cutbacks in highways maintenance across the county have been axed but £24million has been set aside to fund a major overhaul of how the county council is run with a greater use of technology.
“It will mean rethinking and reforming the organisation, our services and the way we work to enable us to work in the most productive way possible,” he said.
“Embracing new technology, ensuring our buildings are fit for purpose and making sure our council is ready for the challenge of the 2020s and beyond.”
“It’s vital these changes to the plan go forward as if we allow the engine of reform to stall we put at risk the front-line services we all believe in.”
“It’s a budget which will help secure a prosperous future for the county while delivering much needed resources for vital public services.”
But Coun Lunn rubbished the proposals and claimed nine years of Conservative austerity had created a situation where by 2020, 60p in every pound of Government funding for local councils would have been cut.
“This budget reminds me of a test cricket team which has just about managed to reach the close of play in difficult circumstances without losing any wickets,” he said.
“However they are following on 300 runs behind with the next day’s fortunes decidedly uncertain and some may say bleak.”
Coun Lunn unveiled a raft of amendments which would have seen the proposed £145,000 cut to the county’s libraries reversed and an additional £80,000 added to make the service more viable.
Cash injections to tackle homelessness and efforts to preserve the county’s Archive and Archaeology Service were also included in Labour’s plans.
“We are not prepared to simply sit here and accept that austerity is way things have to be,” Coun Lunn said.
Councillors voted to reject Labour’s amendments by 39 votes to 17.
Members of the 2017 coalition of Liberal Democrat and Green Party councillors tabled three amendments to split £1million from future spending projects to tackle issues facing residents in their daily lives.
Group leader Coun Liz Tucker called for £300,000 to be injected into community transport schemes, £350,000 into footpath maintenance, £300,000 to encourage more cycling in the county and £50,000 into speeding up the introduction of LED lights in streetlights.
“We know passenger transport in this county is in crisis, particularly buses, and we know the Conservative administration is going to leave it in limbo for a full year while it has a detailed review,” she said.
Councillors rejected all three amendments.