Alternative budget: Lib Dems
LIBERAL Democrats have pledged to reverse cuts to social care, bus services and road improvements in their alternative county council budget. They claim they can save almost £1.5 million by cutting back office staff, selling off housing and redirecting so
LIBERAL Democrats have pledged to reverse cuts to social care, bus services and road improvements in their alternative county council budget.
They claim they can save almost £1.5 million by cutting back office staff, selling off housing and redirecting some council tax.
The savings would be channelled into services under threat from Tory cost cuts, they claim.
But, whilst Cambridgeshire County Council leader, Cllr. Keith Walters, claims the alternative budget is "perfectly reasonable", he says he isn't threatened by it.
"I believe we are always looking to the longer term," he said, "while there are other people who just look forward to the next press release."
The Liberal Democrats' budget proposes making use of over £1 million of unexpected council tax which the Tories plan to put into a reserve fund.
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Savings could also be made from reducing the press and public relations staff and selling off housing rented to county council employees, they claim.
Other savings would come from reducing the minutes taken of informal meetings and cutting down on glossy magazines sent to ratepayers.
They would put £300,000 into adult social care; spend £100,000 recruiting social workers to help those with learning disabilities, £200,000 on youth services and £50,000 to reverse bus cuts.
A plan to put £300,000 this year, and a further £2.3 million in the following two years into a climate change fund to reduce carbon emissions has also been revealed in the alternative budget.
Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. Julian Huppert said: "We realise that there are no easy solutions to the very difficult financial situation that the council finds itself in. "However we must safeguard services to the most vulnerable in our society, those who may not have anywhere else to turn. We would invest more into adult social care, now rated one of the worst in the country. We would invest more in youth services. This is an investment in the future that has been sorely neglected by the Conservative-run council."
But Cllr Walters said: "The Liberal Democrats are saying they are going to cut back office staff whilst setting up another back office to look at climate change.
"As much as it would be nice to use the increase in council tax to reverse some of these cuts, the real problems will come in future years and we have got to reduce our base budget. If we do not in four years time our reserves will be minus £9 million.
"We have a problem recruiting and retaining staff because of the cost of housing in the area. It would be very nice to get some capital by selling off housing but what will that do to recruitment and retention in the future?"
Cambridgeshire County Councillors are due to meet today (Tuesday) to make their final decision on next year's budget.