Budget Council descends into farce
Last night's Council meeting to pass the budget for the coming year descended into farce.
Two Labour councillors proposed a spoof amendment to the budget based on a document which had not been circulated beforehand. This purported to show cuts the Council would have to make if Conservative promises from the May 2021 Local Elections - to freeze Council Tax and eliminate the Council's "debt" - were kept.
The Conservatives consistently refused to admit what they would cut to keep their election promises, at which stage the meeting fell apart. The Mayor was forced to suspend proceedings for a short time while discussions took place on how to proceed.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Bob Barr said: My Group accepts there is no scope for choices in this budget. We praise officers for constructing a legal budget that protects services as far as possible. It is not at all obvious that the governing Labour Group had any real input into the budget, and they appear to have accepted all the officer recommendations.
We put forward an amendment that would have given every householder living in a Band A to D house a cost-of-living rebate of £15. While not much, this rebate would have been the equivalent of half of the increase of 1.98% levied by the Council. It would have cost £1 million from reserves and benefited over 77,000 households.
Labour voted against this rebate but promised to talk to us about how a similar sum could be used to soften the impact of massive cost of living increases on those with the lowest incomes in Warrington.
Deputy Group Leader Cllr Ryan Bate added: A meeting that had started in a sombre mood recognising the crisis in Ukraine turned into a shouting match between Conservatives and Labour. In these difficult times we should have had a consensus on how the Council's finances can be managed. More collaboration and transparency are needed. Instead, our Group was disappointed and bemused as we watched this important meeting descend into farce.