The Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council will propose that in this year’s budget more money is invested on improving highways, tackling fly tipping and litter, and addressing anti-social behaviour and crime to make the Borough’s streets better and cleaner and our communities safer by finding further savings in Civic Centre bureaucracy.
The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, said: “Local government finance has been massively, and disproportionately, hit by this Conservative Government’s so called continued adherence to austerity. Over many years, Oldham has really felt the pain. This year has been no different. The Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement announced in December contained no surprises, it was simply more of the same, no additional funding, do more with less and more cuts.”
“Unfortunately, a rise in Council Tax will be a further burden for struggling households to bear. I am only glad that there is cross-party support to maintain the Council Tax Support Scheme at its current level to help those on the lowest incomes to reduce their bills.”
Whilst the Oldham Liberal Democrats recognise that cuts are necessary, in their Budget Amendment proposals they have identified further savings which cut money from the Council’s bureaucracy rather than taking money from services. Some of the money released through these savings they propose to reinvest to make real improvements to the Borough’s roads and communities to make them better, cleaner and safer.
Councillor Sykes commented: “The Liberal Democrats believe that we should be waging a ‘War on Waste’ by constantly identify savings in bureaucracy to free up money to support the services that are most valued by our ratepayers. This year, we have identified over £420,000 in further savings from the so called back office that can be put back into front-line services.”
The Liberal Democrats have identified a further £423,000 in savings each year by improving disciplinary procedures, tackling absenteeism, reducing staff car allowances for low-mileage users, cutting spending on agency staff and consultants, significantly reducing expenditure on communications and marketing, and scrapping Borough Life.
The Liberal Democrats also propose investment on enforcement so fines can be applied against drivers who selfishly and illegally use bus lanes; whilst this will cost money in the short term, over time this will be revenue raising with no impact on the responsible drivers. This cash will then be used to fix our crumbling roads.
Councillor Sykes said: “We recognise that our savings represent only a relatively small amount compared to the many millions that this Council has been forced to save, but this modest amount would nonetheless be significant.”
“We are proposing to spend £400,000 this year to restore the cuts Labour propose to our youth services, so helping to address the anti-social behaviour that can result from young people having nothing to do, and to invest in tackling the fly-tipping that blights our communities and in the alley-gating and CCTV schemes that help keep people safe in their homes and streets.”
“Next year, we would spend £422,000 to fund an additional £5 million investment on much needed improvements to our roads and infrastructure, and to sustain our work in public safety. This is a practical set of common sense proposals that takes money wasted on bureaucracy and invests it in the services that matter to people.”
“The Labour Administration has recently announced a £6.2 million investment in road improvements, including £5 million this year. Whilst this is a welcome announcement, it is disingenuous of them to claim that this was their idea as in each of our last two annual Budget Amendments we have proposed a £5 million investment; these were investments that Labour failed to support. If it is suddenly right to do this now, why was it not right to do it then? How much better would our road already be if we have invested in them as we suggest two years ago?”
“The Liberal Democrats however want to go one better as, through the savings we have identified, we can fund an additional £5 million in highway and infrastructure improvements in 2019/20, sustaining the level of investment for one more year making more of our roads smoother and safer.”
Councillor Sykes also spoke about his Group’s continued commitment to funding youth services: “The Liberal Democrats are concerned that the £100,000 in cuts that Labour are proposing to our youth services will lead to more instances of anti-social behaviour and increased pressure on our already over-burdened Children’s Social Care Services and on the Police.”
“We would restore the funding but on one condition – that a new Service Level Agreement be drawn up to ensure that funding is focused on providing youth services within each of the Districts, not simply at Mahdlo, which is a town centre venue that many young people are unable, or reluctant, to travel too.”
The Liberal Democrats are equally committed to crime prevention and public safety.
Councillor Sykes added: “Our proposals include making £650,000 available over two years for tackling environmental crime, such as the cowboy van-and-man fly-tippers who take money from householders ostensibly to responsibly dispose of their bulky waste items and then criminally dump them by the side of our highways and in our beauty spots, and to consider applications for alley-gating schemes and for the installation of Closed Circuit Television cameras. In wards, such as my own in Shaw, we have seen that such schemes reduce burglaries and street crime and help people feel safe in their homes and communities.”
Long-term, the Liberal Democrats have still more ambitious proposals to save money. In their Budget Amendment, they have once again called for a reduction in Councillors from 60 to 40, and for two elections every four years instead of three, to realise an estimated annual saving of £190,000. They also want to see the temporary reduction in the Council staff training budget of £150,000 made permanent, and have suggested Spend-to-Save measures, such as investing in replacing conventional street lamps with LED bulbs which use significantly less electricity, and generating money from highways advertising.