Lib Dems Support Warrington Council Budget

February 26, 2019 9:20 PM
By Ian Marks

The opposition Liberal Democrat Group has given its support to the 2.98% rise in Council Tax for next year. The budget was agreed at a Warrington Council meeting on Monday evening.

Gate at Warrington Council Bldg

Finance Spokesperson Cllr Ian Marks said, "The utter shambles of Brexit is having a profound effect on our economy and our Council budget. Civil servants are being diverted from their normal business to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. What a waste, when they should be concentrating on the NHS, education, housing and other vital services. Austerity has gone on far too long and according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, the present system of local government finance is not sustainable. Yet as the Public Accounts Committee says, the government is in denial over local authority funding.

As well as cuts to valued public services like parks, leisure and roads, critical services like adult and children's social care are suffering too. The Chancellor of the Exchequer promised a Green Paper on Care two years ago but we are still waiting for it. This is slowing down the good work of 'Warrington Together' which is the partnership organisation set up to pool health and social care budgets to improve services and make savings. Responsibility for Public Health was transferred to local government in 2013 and has generated some good outcomes. But now, cuts in government spending in this area are having an impact on valuable preventative measures.

There should be more co-operation between Warrington Council and Parish Councils which can generate savings and better outcomes in areas like the environment. We don't like the extra £3 being charged if you cannot renew your green bin on-line. This can penalise vulnerable residents. The Council should investigate a direct debit scheme like they have in Liberal Democrat controlled Watford. We oppose the stopping of applications for Green Flag awards to save £5000. This gives the wrong signal about our care for green spaces and the environment.

We are critical about the lack of detail about the day-to-day implications of the cuts on residents. The table of savings is full of 'weasel words' like 'review', 'transform', 'look to change', 'scope to form' and 'opportunity to restructure'. What do these mean? This is a wish-list of aspirations with no guarantees about deliverability.

Despite our reservations, my Group appreciates this is a difficult budget and in these difficult circumstances we will be supporting it."