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Tories Bow to LibDem Pressure

LibDems Provide Strong Challenge

Over the last year, local people across North East Lincolnshire have been paying almost 3% more Council Tax to cover a multi-million pound bill to fix the Council's failing children's services department, after it was condemned by Ofsted. 

 

This year, the Conservatives had planned to increase our Council Tax by 4.98%, but at a recent Council Budget Setting meeting, the Tories ‘bowed’ to pressure from the local Lib Dems.

 

While brandishing Lib Dem literature that was recently delivered to several wards across the borough, the Conservative Leader hurriedly changed his budget proposal on the night and pushed through a 3.98% increase instead. Even with this change, however, it is still completely unaffordable for many people during these difficult times.

Liberal Democrats pride ourselves on working hard locally all year round on the issues that matter to local people. During an election period this is even more important and we are committed to informing people about the issues that matter to them, providing our record of action compared with other parties. 

As well as the Conservative leader, the Labour leader has also complained about the same LibDem literature in Full Council, but as much as they try, they cannot escape the facts!

 

The Tories are failing local people, and the last Labour run Council did no better, increasing Council Tax by the maximum amount allowed by Government each year too. The last time that our Council Tax was NOT increased was in 2010, when the Liberal Democrats ran the Council.

 

Below is the full speech given by Cllr Nicola Aisthorpe in Full Council on NELC budget:-

"Mr Mayor, I stand to oppose the budget as laid out before us with the suggested alterations made by the Council leader

 

This plan reminds me of a particular curse the ancient Chinese used on their enemies. It was simply, “May you live in interesting times”.

 

Looking at this budget again with the new changes being made tonight, I feel that we are indeed entering interesting times.

 

For instance, our reserves are the lowest they have been for some considerable time, but the plan before us is to deduct from it even further for the current year, followed by two more years of considerable deficits to overcome (£7.9 million and £6.2 million - which clearly indicates that problems are increasing.

 

The general fund balance is currently only £8.3 million and the report states that this is roughly in line with other similar councils, over the last four years. 

 

But the problem I see here, is that the majority of other areas do not currently have the same problems with their ‘looked after children’, as we do, so it doesn’t seem reasonable to me to compare ourselves financially with others at the moment.

 

Moving on to capital receipts, I totally accept we have little choice but to spend much of it on Children Services, but that is only when and if, any capital receipts actually arrive.

 

The plan seems highly confident that the capital receipts quoted will arrive at an appropriate time, but surely we should be prepared for the possibility that this income may not delivered in time. 

 

Mr Mayor, it concerns me greatly that apparently we do not have a Plan B for the expenditure that is urgently needed for children’s services.

 

I’m also deeply concerned regarding the significant increases on borrowing quoted within this report.  At the moment, this is apparently estimated at £79 million if we are to fund our existing Capital Programme.  This is on top of the £25 million, we have already borrowed.

 

Then there is the matter of the budget engagement. It is important, in my view, to consult with residents so I totally support the principle here. I also agree with the three main questions and indeed the additional points raised by residents. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether these points were looked at or addressed, nor are the results of the ‘count’ clear, and unless residents feel confident that their views are being considered, whether fore or against, this consultation, in my view, is totally worthless and can not be used with this budget.

Mr Mayor, moving on to the new Council Tax changes. I compliment the controlling group in reducing the Council Tax increase by 1%, but regret they haven’t had the courage of their convictions. 

 

May I respectfully remind them that they call themselves the party of low taxation, and yet have still managed to raise council tax every year since they’ve been in power. 

 

I ask colleagues to remember that many of the wards we represent in this borough are in the top 10% most deprived in the country. If this Council Tax increase is approved tonight, it will come as a massive blow to many local people amid the current cost of living crisis. 

 

Now would have been the time to be strong and reduced the council tax to 0%, as indeed several other brave authorities have done. 

 

In view of the cost of living crisis, I feel I have to no other option but to oppose this budget!"

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