Postbag: Liberal's budget would waste public money

PUBLISHED: 14:36 02 March 2006 | UPDATED: 13:17 04 May 2010

THE report in the Ely Standard of November 23, concerning the county council budget agreed by the county council on February 21, failed to mention a number of important details. The Liberal Democrat budget proposed as an alternative to the Conservative bu

THE report in the Ely Standard of November 23, concerning the county council budget agreed by the county council on February 21, failed to mention a number of important details. The Liberal Democrat budget proposed as an alternative to the Conservative budget would have meant an increase on the Council Tax precept of 5.4% instead of our proposed 5%. An increase in the Council Tax of 5.4% would have been contrary to Government guidelines of keeping increases in Council Tax to 5% and a very real risk of being rate-capped. If we were rate-capped it would cost the council taxpayer about an additional £500,000 for rebilling every household in Cambridgeshire. What a waste of money, but then the Liberal Democrats know all about that because when they were last in office some nine years ago at Shire Hall they were rate-capped which cost the ratepayers at that time some £350,000.

Your report correctly refers to our proposals "to slice £10.7million from spending". What you omitted to say was that the Liberal Democrat proposals to increase the Council Tax to 5.4%, as well as risking being rate-capped, would have meant that they would have had "to slice £9.8million from spending proposals". The Conservatives consulted widely on our proposals, something like over a four-month period. The Liberal Democrat proposals were released to us the evening before the budget meeting and not consulted on at all. In very simple terms, the Liberal Democrats proposed increasing our spending proposals by some £780,000 in the next financial year with the risks I have outlined. I made the point at the budget meeting, not reported, that we already know that the proposed grant settlement for the year 2007-2008 will be more severe than this year and any extra spending now will place a bigger burden on the budget for the next year. But then, the Liberal Democrats have demonstrated on numerous occasions that they are unable to look that far ahead.

JOHN POWLEY

County Councillor for Soham and Fordham

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