Monday, 21 January 2013

Tory Budget Under Strain From Busway Borrowing

Cambridgeshire’s guided busway fiasco is putting pressure on frontline services leaving the Tories to make bigger cuts than would otherwise be necessary.

The Liberal Democrat opposition claims that the ruling Conservative group has devised a "one year" budget, intended to tide it through election year, enabling them to avoid giving detailed plans for several key areas of responsibility from 2014/15.

Big savings gaps still exist, where the only explanatory information provided is that "thematic reviews" will take place.  Unless huge efficiencies can be made in these areas this will simply result in further cuts, say the Lib Dems.

The Conservatives have also only managed to balance the books thanks to the disastrous failure of the MBT Plant, for which they still have no Plan B, meaning all of our black-bin waste will continue to go straight to landfill; and also by making a big revenue cut to highways maintenance that will in the long-term negate much of the extra capital spending in this area.

"The capital program is intended to get the headlines, and we will support those projects we have long campaigned for, including the railway station at Chesterton sidings and the belated investment in our crumbling roads and pavements," said Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat Leader, Kilian Bourke.

“In terms of the council's core responsibilities, however, it is clear that bad local decisions are adding to an already bleak funding situation and significantly reducing the council’s ability to provide frontline services.

“Care packages will now be squeezed to the absolute minimum without being illegal, there are big extra cuts to mental health, and our rural bus services will be decimated once the elections are over, making it harder for many young people to get a job.”

“The sums being spent on the busway would be sufficient to offset many of these cuts, and to mitigate the worst effects of others. The Conservatives and Labour have a lot to answer for, for having pushed this project through.

The Lib Dems have also expressed concern at some of the more extreme elements of the Tory budget, which suggest that the Conservatives are trying to appeal to UKIP voters in election year.

"There are also some elements of quite extreme Conservatism in this budget.  Any concern for the environment is now officially dead in the water, at County level.  And it is surprising that the Tories think they can negotiate reductions in staff employment rights and wages, despite having tried to give themselves a 25 per cent pay rise just one year ago.

"Such policies are clearly calculated to appeal to UKIP voters in the north of the county where UKIP is a big threat to the Tories in May."

“Two weeks from now the Liberal Democrat opposition will publish a more socially responsible and greener alternative budget that would make this county a better place to live.”