Thursday, 5 February 2015

Cambridge City Lib Dems reveal budget plan to address what matters most

Cambridge Liberal Democrats have revealed their alternative budget plan, reducing much of Labour’s planned cutback in funding for the city’s voluntary organisations and reinstating shelved community projects - while dropping Labour's pet political schemes for trade union subsidy and council public relations.

They claim that their budget slightly reduces the savings that the City Council will have to make in the next five years while addressing what matters most to residents.

“We have listened to what matters to the people of Cambridge and that is reflected in our budget,” said Cambridge Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Bick.

“We want to restore much of the cutback in funding to voluntary organisations that Labour has made. Money spent to relieve disadvantage in the city through voluntary organisations is very cost effective as it unleashes the positive energy of many individuals out in the community.

"We also want to reinstate the investment in some of the community improvements already expected by the public.

"We propose to restore funding that Labour took away from the council's partnership working with the police so it can be used to address persistent neighbourhood traffic safety concerns. When Labour asked the public in their budget consultation exercise, this was the area of spending people least wanted cutting back."

The Lib Dem budget includes reinstating, in the council’s already-funded capital spending plan, the refurbishment of the Nightingale Recreation Ground, the Jesus Green Pavilion project and the refurbishment of the city’s public toilets which were all shelved by Labour.

It also includes putting back into the capital plan the Local Centres Improvement programme for Cherry Hinton High Street, Arbury Court and Mitcham’s Corner.

The budget also includes:
  • Reducing Labour’s planned reduction in grant funding to voluntary organisations from 25 per cent to 10 per cent from 2016/17; 
  • A contribution to encourage contractors working for the council to pay the Living Wage to their employees. 
  • Restore local planning to Area Committees; 
  • Reinstating funding for police partnership working so that it can pay for a full time officer dedicated to traffic enforcement including speeding and dangerous parking outside schools. 
The Lib Dems would reverse Labour’s decision to introduce an automated telephone system because they want to “keep real people answering calls rather than diverting them to a conversation with an automated voice”.

They would also drop Labour’s plans to increase the subsidy for trade union activities and to increase council PR staffing.

As revealed days ago, the most ambitious part of the Lib Dems’ budget is a plan to invest £12 million in new homes in the city.

The revenue-generating scheme includes 70 homes at 80 per cent of market rent and a further 30 affordable homes.

It would be paid for by diverting £4 million - half the money Labour wants to invest in the council’s commercial property portfolio – and £8 million from Labour’s unallocated investment fund.

The overall Lib Dem budget plan makes slightly more inroads than Labour into the savings the Council believes it needs to make over the next 5 years. £2.4m remains to be found over forthcoming budgets, for which further work was set in train by the last administration.