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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ealing Council Freezes Its Council Tax But Cuts Will Hurt The Vulnerable

Last night was the most important night of the year - it is when the Council sets it Council Tax. The night for me and others was very sad, certainly at the beginning of the meeting, as I said a few words in memory of somebody who had passed away over the weekend. I knew the person very well and it is always difficult to be as composed as you would like when talking about someone who is no longer with us, in person. No words seem fully appropriate.

In the meeting Ealing Council agreed to freeze its level of Council Tax. This happened in part because of about £3 million pounds of money given by the Coalition government.

For the second year running the Liberal Democrat Group put forward an amendment to Labour’s proposals. A summary of the main changes was as follows:
Cancel the proposed car park in Southall that would cost over £5 million
Reduce by 10% the money that Councillors receive
Reduce the salaries of the highest paid council officers
Reinstating the Short Breaks Carers Restbite service
Giving a discount to Council Tax for Special Constables volunteers (who are not paid for their community activities)
Reversing the cuts Labour proposed affecting Sheltered Accommodation
Ensuring no one has to pay for the Garden Waste collections (the Garden Tax)
Halving the budget used to set up Controlled Parking Zones
Having future monies (the interest on loans) by not borrowing more money

Our budget was financially approved by Council officers and it was fully costed and realistic.

When it came to the vote sadly Labour chose not to accept the amendment despite it helping a lot of vulnerable people such as the elderly or carers.

Liberal Democrats believe that when a Council makes cuts it needs to avoid adding to the hard that that many vulnerable residents are suffering whether it be due to health or age related problems. The Labour budget will do little to help many vulnerable people.

In contrast the Liberal Democrats have looked hard through the thousands of pages of financial documents about the Council and its operations to cut out items of spend that are not needed in the short term.

We then have focused on more crucial spending, to either help the Council become more efficient or provide services that residents really need or want. For example Liberal Democrats want to see more people recycling more types of household items. This is why we ensured that no one would pay to have their garden waste collected. Labour are to charge you £40 for this! The stats in Ealing show that when you charge for recycling people are likely to be involved in recycling household goods.

I cannot finish without talking about the unnecessary car park in Southall. It is such a waste of £5 million. By cancelling this we would have been able to reverse Labour’s cuts as well as providing a reduction in Council Tax to those residents who are Special Police Constables. Their voluntary work needs to be rewarded.

The Liberal Democrats are saddened that the Labour party chose to turn down proposals, that the Council officers said were feasible, to reduce cuts that will now cause harm to vulnerable residents. It was also very poor that the so-called official opposition party, the Conservatives, did not put in the hard graft to put forward an alternative budget. It is clear that the Liberal Democrats are the only opposition party who have a vision to help residents.

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