At a meeting last night to set West Berkshire Council’s budget, incredulity turned into anger when it became apparent that the Liberal Democrats had attempted to conceal the amount of financial reserves needed to balance the books in their proposed amendment to the Conservative budget.
The Leader of the Council, Cllr. Gordon Lundie explained: “Year on year, we have become accustomed to the standard Lib Dem tactic of shoring up unachievable plans with large raids on our limited Reserves. This is the first time, though, that I can recall them concealing their intentions to this extent.
“Their published amendment which is available to the public, implied that they planned to spend £559k from the Reserves. That is untrue. The real figure is £1.209m, which had their Amendment been successful, would have been their second highest raid on the Reserves since 2006.
Every year, they seem to gloss over the fact that they would need to replenish the level of Reserves taken but then can not produce a plan to do so. It is a fact that our level of Reserves is amongst the lowest in the South East and financial regulations require us to maintain a prudent level, which we have achieved.”
There was further confusion over the status of a single sheet of paper handed round by the Lib Dem spokes person for finance. Figures in it clearly showed a model that raised Council Tax by over 2%, the current threshold set by government, above which a costly local referendum would be necessary.
Conservatives were bemused by more Lib Dem inconsistency as they sought to generate increased income from raising car parking charges whilst professing themselves to be against any increase to on-street car parking.
Cllr. Lundie stressed that whilst budgetary provision had to be made for any extension to on-street car-parking, no decision has yet been taken pending a full and thorough analysis of consultation responses. The Conservative Group was unanimous in their support for the budget papers. Cllr. Lundie commented: “We have had to find considerable savings again this year and we have managed to do so without making significant cuts to levels of service provision. We continue to invest in high priority areas, particularly in the areas of vulnerable people and in our schools and highways. In order to do so, we have set the level of Council Tax increase at 2%. This is the first increase to Council Tax for three years and represents an increase of 47 pence per week for the benchmark Band D Council Tax payer.”
Cllr Gordon Lundie
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