Labour unveils 2013 budget priorities for South Gloucestershire
By ptics | Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 10:29
From South Gloucestershire Labour...
South Gloucestershire's Labour Councillors have unveiled their budget priorities ahead of decision-making meetings later this month. This is the authority's first budget since it moved to a committee system last May, and proposals will be agreed at the Policy & Resources Committee next Monday (11th) before final endorsement at Council on 20 February.
Despite a very difficult financial climate for local councils, with South Gloucestershire facing a 28% funding cut over four years, the Labour team has come up with a balanced package that includes a number of initiatives to support those in financial need.
Highlights of Labour's budget package are:
• The introduction of the Living Wage (set at £7.45 per hour from April) for council staff. This would benefit around 1,600 of the lowest paid, often part-time workers.
• Putting funds into creating primary school places. This would allow more children to attend schools close to their homes, and not face long journeys.
• Plugging a government cut to the funds that support Housing Benefit advice. This would allow claims to be completed and processed more efficiently.
• Beefing up the remedial work budget in planning enforcement. This would allow the council to take more direct action in clearing up grot spots.
• Employing an additional dog warden. This would help the council's drive to keep our streets clean and safe.
• Retaining the proposed refurbishment of Filton Hill Primary School. This scheme is under threat because of the harsh financial situation.
Labour will propose adopting a range of measures to help fund these priorities. These include:
• Using the full allocation of next year's New Homes Bonus funding on council-wide schemes rather than delegating it to local forums.
• Spending a number of small reserves that are no longer needed for their original purpose.
• Cutting out catering for internal council meetings involving councillors and officials.
• Allowing advertising in the council's magazine South Gloucestershire News.
Speaking about Labour's budget plans, Group Leader Councillor Andy Perkins (Labour, Woodstock) said:
"These are tough times for local councils, as Government cuts are already biting into much-needed services. Despite our best efforts the council has closed its homecare service and hived off most of its youth centres. With George Osborne admitting that his cuts will have to continue beyond his original plan period, we face an even tougher time ahead.
"Our response as Labour councillors is to present a responsible balanced budget that focuses limited resources where they will make a difference. Although we have fewer than a quarter of the seats on South Gloucestershire Council, we believe our proposals have merit and we will be trying to persuade colleagues in other political parties to back our plans when we present them next Monday."