Labour: ‘Council should release funds for communities’

South Ribble Council Civic Centre, Leyland
South Ribble Council Civic Centre, Leyland
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An across-party vote in support of South Ribble’s budget proposals for 2015/16 was achieved this week, including a council tax freeze for residents.

The opposition Labour party put forward an alternative budget at the full council meeting on Wednesday.

“I didn’t get elected so that I could hoard council tax payer’s money in the Civic Centre”

Labour leader, Coun Matthew Tomlinson

But the ruling Tories voted against the proposals, and after the alternative budget was dismissed, all of the Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors also voted in favour of the Conservative’s original plans.

Labour leader Matthew Tomlinson said: “I’m disappointed but not surprised our budget was not supported.

“However, I’ve said before that there is much in the Conservative’s budget which we support.

“We think it’s a bit tired and that more could be done, but we do support it.”

Labour’s proposals aimed to keep all of the initiatives drawn up by the Tories, such as introducing a new apprenticeship scheme at the council, and offering residents a free budgeting advice service, as well as ploughing money into parks and town centres.

But the Labour group accused the council of ‘squirrelling’ away millions of pounds in reserves which could be used to enhance the borough further, and said they wanted to add a number of schemes to the budget proposals.

These included spending an extra £1.35m in parks and open spaces, and an additional £400,000 in district centres.

They also wanted to put cash towards bringing more affordable housing to the borough, and offer grants to small businesses which employ young people who have been out of work for six months.

This, they argued, could be done whilst also ‘balancing the books’.

However, the Tories argued that their savings were a result of years of successful forward planning.

Coun Stephen Robinson, cabinet member for finance, said: “I would like to emphasise that the council under this administration has a consistent and excellent track record of meeting its financial targets.

“Our approach to proper forward planning put us in a position to create this budget; one that is optimistic, vibrant and full of exciting plans for the future.”

- For more on this story, including a break-down of the Labour group’s ideas, see next Tuesday’s Leyland Guardian.