Savings should be spent, say Lib Dems

EAST Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have hit out at the council’s decision to put more than �650,000 into savings this year.

The money has been set aside by the council in case of emergency but the Lib Dems say that some of the money should be spent to help struggling community groups that are suffering in the wake of council cutbacks.

The two parties clashed over the issue at Thursday’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, with Lib Dem councillors refusing to approve the authority’s budget, which included a 2.95 per cent in increase in Council Tax.

Lib Dem councillor Gareth Wilson said: “The figures showed that �665,111 was going to be added to reserves in a pot to cover future possible problems. This was much larger than predicted at last year’s budget discussions and is in addition to the �350,000 fund set up in case of problem the previous year.”

Cllr Wilson said that savings totalling more than �150,000 had been identified recently on top of the council’s predicted savings, money, he added, which could be used to “redress” some of the “harsh cuts” that had been made last year.

“Dial-a-Ride the community bus service helping elderly people with no other access to transport had been cut by �26,000 last year,” said Cllr Wilson.

“In view of our favourable position we should give them �7,500 towards their overheads.”

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The Lib Dems also proposed giving money back to councils, schools and charities to encourage recycling.

Conservative council leader Peter Moakes, said: “As we looked at our budget this year, we made the conscious decision to help those who are most vulnerable and who are less able to raise funds. This is why we wanted to support Care and Repair in the next financial year - they are a small organisation but their work really does help to change lives by assisting people to have greater use of their homes.

“Whilst we would obviously like to give money to more organisations we do have a very limited budget. We have to bear in mind that the money we are putting towards our reserves is there for a very specific purpose - to fund our future.

“Until the four year financial plan was put in place last year, our reserves had reached dangerously low levels. This is why it is imperative they are restored to a sensible level as any prudent household would do in order to meet the unknown challenges of future.”