Mr Mayor, I rise tonight to second the amendment to the Administration’s Budget proposed by the Opposition Liberal Democrat Group.
Local government continues to be butchered disproportionately – hit by the Conservative Government’s continued adherence to so-called austerity. The Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement announced in December did not bring us an early Christmas present; it simply represented yet more pain for us to absorb.
The Liberal Democrat Group recognises that in our financial situation the Labour Administration has once more had to reduce overall spending whilst, regrettably, increasing Council Tax by a further 3.99%. Through necessity, we will support the rise to pay for improvements to adult social care and services.
This is albeit reluctantly because we know that many residents in our Borough have not seen any increase in their take home pay for several years whilst facing a constant rise in the cost of basic necessities.
I am only glad that there has been 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.
I now want to turn to our amendment. Councillor McCann in his speech highlighted the additional savings in Civic Centre bureaucracy that the Liberal Democrat team has identified. I want now to explain how we intend to invest those savings to improve highways; tackle fly tipping; and address anti-social behaviour and crime; to make our Borough’s streets better and cleaner; and our communities safer.
We are proposing to spend £400,000 of our savings this year to invest more in our highways; to restore the cuts to our youth services; to tackle the fly-tipping that blights our communities; and for public safety measures, such as alley-gating and CCTV schemes.
I will look at each of these proposals in turn.
The Labour Administration recently announced a £6.2 million investment in road improvements, including proposing an investment of £5 million this year. Although welcome, this is not the first time we have heard such a proposal in this chamber.
We made the same proposal in each of our last two Budget Amendments. These were investments that Labour and others failed to support.
If it is suddenly right to do this now, why was it not right to do it then, especially as in the last two years our road surfaces have been steadily getting worse? But in 2018 the Liberal Democrats are more ambitious.
In our proposals, we can afford to fund AN ADDITIONAL £5 million in highway and infrastructure improvements in 2019/20, thus sustaining the level of investment for one more year making more of our roads smoother and safer.
Our proposals represent welcome news indeed to our motorists, users of public transport and pedestrians.
The Liberal Democrats are concerned that the £100,000 reduction in funding for 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. A false economy if there ever was one. Through our savings, we would find the money to restore the funding.
We also want a proper Service Level Agreement to be drawn up to ensure that some 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 want to see some of our youth services delivered locally, as they should be.
We also want to make £650,000 available over two years to tackle environmental crime and for public safety.
- – Money to apprehend the cowboy fly-tippers who criminally dump bulky waste items by the side of our highways and in our beauty spots.
- – Money to establish a fund to support applications for alley-gates and CCTV cameras to reduce burglaries and street crime.
- – Money to help people to feel safe in their homes and communities.
So, Mr Mayor, in summary our proposals will deliver:
– Better roads
– Better and more local youth services
– Less anti-social behaviour and safer communities
– Less fly-tipping and cleaner streets
All priorities for the residents of Oldham Borough and all this for less than half a million pounds!
Mr Mayor, these investments will have a real positive impact on the quality of life of our residents. This is about getting the basics right and spending less on back-office bureaucracy in the Civic Centre! I do hope that tonight Councillors from all sides of the chamber will choose to support this very sensible amendment.