Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Lib Dem Budget Tackles Inequality And Eliminates Waste

Cllr Kilian Bourke
(LD, Romsey)

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have revealed their alternative budget investing £10 million in transport over the next five years, supporting schools and young people and embarking on a radical programme of energy efficiency.

The budget identifies around £67 million worth of savings in the years to 2017 while reversing the Tories’ withdrawal of financial support for bus services.

Transport investment includes:

  • reinstating Cambridge’s city shuttle as the county’s first electric bus; 
  • an extra £300,000 next year for community transport and further cash injections over the following two years making a total of £1 million. A Quality Bus Contract scheme would be used to deliver an improved countywide bus service;
  • transport interchanges would be built to make sure people in rural areas have better access to services;
  • the Chisholm Trail, a strategic cycle route linking up Addenbrooke’s Hospital, the CB1 development and the Science Park, would be built;
  • the Wisbech to March railway line would be reopened giving an hourly passenger service to Cambridge and allowing people to travel by train to Peterborough and London.

Young people feature high in the Lib Dems’ alternative budget with the promise of a top up to the government’s Pupil Premium for disadvantaged young people by a further £250 per pupil per year.

And there would be free public transport for every young person seeking education or employment. Youth clubs would also be kept open.

Over the next five years £10 million would be spent on maintenance and energy efficiency in schools and a further £1 million on solar panelling.

The voluntary sector would receive £1 million worth of investment over the next two years and Citizens Advice Bureau would receive financial help to assist people facing hardship due to the tough economic climate.  Concessionary fares for pensioners have also been protected.
Among savings identified in the budget is £25 million on Northstowe and a further £12 million by replacing the controversial Ely southern bypass project with an underpass under the railway line.

Liberal Democrat Leader, Kilian Bourke said: “This budget shows how a Liberal Democrat council would do things differently and better. We would tackle entrenched inequality, instead of just talking about it.

“Well targeted investment in bus, rail and cycling infrastructure would allow people to access the wider community and its opportunities, regardless of age and geography.
“We would target support at young people who need it and make smart enhancements to our library service and better maintain our schools.

“We would eliminate Conservative waste and bad contract management and run the council as an efficient, modern organisation, embarking on a radical program of energy efficiency that would generate big savings.

“We would implement a plan to responsibly manage Adult Care, instead of helter skelter budgeting that has demoralised staff and service-users alike and resulted in a 25 per cent cut in care levels mid-year.

“While we cannot find a way to protect core services without increasing council tax, we recognise that working families are hard pressed at this time and would restore public trust by not using this increase to give ourselves a pay rise.”

NOTE: The liberal democrat budget amendment and associated financial information is available (via Google Docs) here.