Investment In Roads Is Top Of Lib Dems Spending Priorities

INVESTMENT in Cambridgeshire s road network is top on the list of Liberal Democrats spending priorities if they win the county council elections in June. Setting out their alternative budget , the Lib Dems say they will increase Council Tax by 2.45 per

INVESTMENT in Cambridgeshire's road network is top on the list of Liberal Democrats' spending priorities if they win the county council elections in June.

Setting out their "alternative budget", the Lib Dems say they will increase Council Tax by 2.45 per cent, instead of the 3.9 per cent increase proposed by Conservatives, whilst still investing �10million in roads, projects for young people, more police officers and volunteer services.

Peter Downes, deputy leader of the Cambridgeshire County Council's Liberal Democrat Group said: "We are quite proud to have come up with a detailed list of amendments - opposition mostly stand up at meetings and rubbish the incumbent's proposals, but we wanted to be constructive."

"The Conservatives have published their 3.9 per cent increase, but we didn't think that was good enough."

Despite identifying surplus cash in contingency funds and reserves, the Lib Dems want to borrow �5million to fund small road improvement schemes, which they say are too often rejected by the county council's Conservative cabinet.

"There were 35 schemes put forward and only four of them got funding," said Cllr Downes. "We would like to see that increased - and more money for Speedwatch."

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Introduced by Insp Clinton Hale, who heads up Cambridgeshire Police's Safety Camera Unit, Speedwatch is currently funded jointly by police and parish councils. Residents use flashing boards to log motorists' speed and send out a "warning letter" to the registered driver's address at a cost of around �3,000-�6,000 per parish council.

Cllr Downes added that the amount of money spent on policing was to increase, putting at least 30 more officers on Cambridgeshire's streets by 2011.

"Road safety and the state of the roads came top on the list of concerns at county council roadshows," he told the Ely Standard. "There was also a high level of concern about anti-social behaviour which we hope would be addressed by increasing the visibility of police on the streets."

"Sometimes, the nimbys are right," he added.

Whilst spending on police and road safety would increase, plans to streamline the county council's school bus service have been put on the table.

Every day, 800 bus routes, with 800 different contracts, bus 12,000 children to school, subsidised to the tune of �17million by the county council. "Award the contract, and then let the bus operators work out which routes are cost effective," said Cllr Downes. "We spend nearly �200 more a head per year in Cambridgeshire than in the rural county of Suffolk - and when you consider we are busing12,000 children a day, that makes quite a lot of difference."

Cambridgeshire's Conservative administration scored four out of four for financial management at its last audit - and announced last week that they were lowering their own Council Tax increase from 4.7 per cent to 3.9 per cent - partly motivated by a large increase in the amount district councils are charging their ratepayers.

Cllr Jill Tuck, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: "When you take a close look at the Lib Dems alternative budget it amounts to a list of cutbacks. Nothing more than that and a whole lot less in terms of services for residents.

"They tout new funds to put more police officers on the streets, seemingly forgetting that it is the police authority's responsibility to fund the police. Gesture politics, with no clue for residents as to whether the police themselves or whether the Cambridgeshire Together group would even be interested in the idea.

"The rest of the proposed package might be a cut and paste from what the Conservative run council is already doing. Supporting charities, improving public transport, reducing energy consumption and investing in the road network."

nWHAT do you think? Are your councillors giving you value for money? Have your say by emailing us at or write to the editor at the Ely Standard at 38 Market Street, Ely CB7 4LS.