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.”