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by Craig Martin on 23 March, 2020

Since the beginning of austerity this is the first budget where we’ve had an increase in Government funding. A series of one off spending commitments meant the Council had around an additional £17 million to use. Particularly aimed at dealing with the funding issues around care of the elderly, higher needs funding, and looked after children. The challenge being what do you spend this money on when you have no certainty that you’ll have it next year.

The governing political group proposed one off commitments on improving highways, leisure centre redevelopment, climate emergency proposals, and town and village regeneration. They also provided long term funding commitments for an additional 11 neighbourhood wardens and the setting up of a youth parliament.

The general theme of opposition group amendments centred around the towns and villages regeneration reserve. An original £10 million pot of money that has been topped up to a total of £20 million in this budget, where only £1.25 million has been allocated for spending. I put forward proposal to allocate £10,000 per County Councillor to ensure some of it is equally shared out to every community for regeneration projects. While also trying to get it spent, which is something that isn’t happening. While other groups attempted to get this money given directly to AAPs, which I equally supported but were all voted down.

Also during the debate I spoke on the poor management of finances by the lead political group that has been demonstrated in this budget. Despite the massive increase in funding the budget was not balanced. Reserves were used to top spending up in an unplanned manner. I have been campaigning for years that the Council should be using them and welcome it. But key criticism is there isn’t a real need to use them this year but there was in previous years.

I was unable to support the budget with the extra government funding while around 4% increase in council tax and without any guarantee that the community I represent would reap any direct benefits.

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