South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats hit out at “clueless” Conservative budget

South Gloucestershire Lib Dems have hit out at the budget passed by Council’s ruling Conservative group last night. The budget indicates that there will be over £36 million in cuts to the Council’s budget between 2019 and 2022 – but the nature of these cuts are still unspecified and the Conservatives admit they still don’t know how these cuts will be implemented.  

Speaking during the debate, Lib Dem group Deputy Leader, Cllr Clare Young, said: 

“Last week I chaired a detailed scrutiny of the budget. The most alarming feature was the number of times the answer to how savings was going to be made was ‘we don’t know yet’ or ‘we still need to do the work on that.’ We know the Conservatives plan to cut £36m from the Council’s budget between 2019 and 2022, including over £16 million from adult and children’s social services. It seems extraordinary that councillors would commit to such massive cuts without knowing how services will be affected.

“Councillor Riddle says that belts have to be tightened in these times of austerity, and we accept that, but South Gloucestershire has already tightened its belt pretty damn hard in recent years. There will come a point, not very long from now I fear, when there will be simply nothing left to cut. I didn’t come into local government to see it stripped to the bone and unable to help people we were elected to serve. I’m sure he didn’t either.

“It’s time that, instead of simply defending the cuts being handed down from their party in Westminster, this Council’s Conservative administration, and South Gloucestershire’s Conservative MPs…use their influence to push back against the cuts from central government…. If it turns out that they have no such influence within their own party then local residents might reasonably begin to ask ‘what is the point in having a Conservative-run Council at all?’” 

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Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors unite to condemn Conservative budget and lack of transparency

The Leaders of South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors have taken the unusual step of uniting to express their dismay over the Conservative administration’s proposed budget and the lack of transparency surrounding it, following a meeting of the Council’s Scrutiny Commission.  

The ruling Conservatives’ budget was published on 26 January and announces £36 million of unspecified savings over the three years from 2019 to 2022. At the Scrutiny Commission meeting the Council’s Conservative leadership admitted that it could not provide details about these savings as they had not yet been identified.

Lib Dem Group Leader, Councillor Ruth Davis, said: “The Conservatives plan to cut £36 million from the Council’s budget between 2019 and 2022, including over £16 million from adult and children’s social services. When questioned by the Council’s Scrutiny Commission about how these cuts will impact services, the Conservative Leader of the Council and his officers responded that they do not yet know.

“It seems extraordinary that the Conservatives would commit to such massive cuts without having some idea of how services will be affected. Either they know where the axe will fall, but won’t say, or they are proposing these cuts with a reckless lack of preparation.”

Labour Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney said: “The relentless slashing of central support for local government, driven by the government’s ideological austerity programme, will have a major impact on the services that South Gloucestershire Council can provide, the staff it employs and the charges it levies. I was disappointed at the scrutiny meeting that the Conservative leader refused to concede that local government is taking an unfair share of this government-driven pain.”

She added: “Opposition councillors only received the budget information 12 days ago and have not been privy to any of the discussions leading up to its publication. We have always disputed the Tory claim that their new Cabinet system would be transparent, and we have yet further proof of the growing culture of concealment under Tory Cabinet rule.”

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Lib Dems brand Conservative budget “deceptive” over plans to cut adult social care, despite putting the council tax precept up

South Gloucestershire’s Conservative Cabinet yesterday voted in favour of a budget plan which will see millions of pounds stripped from services to care for the most vulnerable in our communities while, at the same time, putting up the council tax precept intended to fund such services.

South Gloucestershire Lib Dem spokesperson for Adult Social Care, Cllr Maggie Tyrrell said: “When residents next get their council tax bills, and see that the adult social care precept has gone up by 3%, they might reasonably expect that that means that there will be an increase in the budget for adult social care. But the reality is that the Conservatives are giving to social care with one hand and taking away more with the other. The increased precept is expected to bring in £4 million a year, but the Conservatives plan to cut the annual adult social services budget by over £6 million by 2022.”

South Glos Lib Dem Deputy Leader Cllr Claire Young said: “Ultimately, these cuts are the fault of the Conservative Government’s Budget, supported by South Gloucestershire’s three Conservative MPs. South Gloucestershire’s Tory councillors defend the budget and say that we must all “live within our means” – but that’s easy to say when they are not the ones who will face the sharp end of these cuts. Local residents might begin to ask what the point of having a Conservative Council and three Conservative MPs is, if they seemingly have no influence on Government and obediently accept cuts to the most vulnerable in our society.”

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Massive increase in possession of weapons offences after Conservatives cut police funding

Recorded Crime statistics released today have shown a rise in serious criminal offences across England and Wales, with violent crime and sexual offences both seeing big increases in the year up to September 2017. Across Avon & Somerset, there has been a huge surge in possession of weapons offences, up 34% on the previous year compared to a 26% increase nationally.

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities, Cllr Claire Young, said: “These figures are truly shocking and come after years of cuts to police numbers and funding under Theresa May. When she became Home Secretary, there were 3085 full time police officers in Avon & Somerset, by 2016, there were just 2483 – a cut of over 600 officers. 

“The increase in serious crime we are now seeing is the consequence of Conservative underinvestment in our police. The Home Office grant to Avon & Somerset Police has seen a real terms cut this year of £3.21million meaning that the Conservatives continue to fail our police officers and the victims of crime.”

Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesperson, Ed Davey MP, said: “Police forces are continually being asked to do more with less by Ministers, yet it is the public that are having to cope with the consequences. Amber Rudd must take these shocking crime figures to Number Ten and demand extra money from the Treasury so we can properly resource our police and start to reverse this appalling trend.”  

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Listening to people's concerns in Thornbury

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On Saturday, Claire Young, Thornbury Councillors and other Liberal Democrats braved the rain to find out people's concerns in the new development Thornbury Fields. We were delighted to hear that people enjoy living in the town and we are now following up the concerns raised. 

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