Fringe Box



‘Liberal Democrat Rubbish’ Council Leader Calls Claim that New Budget Is Uncaring

Published on: 15 Feb, 2013
Updated on: 18 Feb, 2013
The budget for 2013-2014 was passed at Millmead last night (Feb 14th)

The budget for 2013-2014 was passed at Millmead last night (February 14).

The leader of Guildford Borough Council (GBC), Stephen Mansbridge, vehemently defended its new budget last night against criticism that the 1.99%* council tax rise would impact unfairly on those financially disadvantaged.

Cllr Zoe Franklin

Cllr Zoe Franklin.

Cllr Zoe Franklin (Lib Dem, Stoke) had said earlier: “I recognise that council budgets are under pressure but household incomes are also under pressure. Household bills are expected to rise by an average of 5%.

“Public sector pay remains frozen and other pay awards are minimal. The households that are likely to suffer most are those of the middle income earners whose budgets have already been stretched to the very limit.

“A single mother of two in my ward, who is not eligible for any support, explained that she currently struggles from month to month to pay her bills, including council tax …. she will now face difficult decisions on what essentials to cut. She will not be the only one.”

Cllr Mark Chapman

Cllr Mark Chapman.

Cllr Mark Chapman (Lib Dem, Westborough) added that last year one resident had written to him saying that they were struggling to pay their rent and council tax. This year, so far, 15 residents had contacted him. This was before, he added, changes to the benefits system which he believed would be seriously detrimental to Guildford borough residents. He said: “I cannot, in all conscience, vote for a council tax rise.”

In a robust response Cllr Stephen Mansbridge said:  “We are about delivering efficient effective services to our residents and about commercialising, as much as possible, the elements of our council that can make money profitably.”

Blaming the last Labour Government for the present economic difficulties, he said: “We are going to be robust, we are going to be fair. We are going to be absolutely cognisant of our residents, be they the residents that are better off or, more importantly, the residents that are less well off, that are in hardship, that are vulnerable.

“I will not stand the charge that we as an administration do not care socially, and are not socially responsible for those elements in our society. That is total Liberal Democrat rubbish, and I will not have it, because we do and there are many aspects that come out in this budget that demonstrate that.

Cllr Stephen Mansbridge

Cllr Stephen Mansbridge.

Cllr Mansbridge then defended the decision to raise, against government advice, council tax by 1.99%, the maximum permissible without a referendum.

In a side swipe at fellow Conservative, Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, Cllr Mansbridge continued: “But if we listen to you [Liberal Democrats] and if we say that we take the freeze that the generous Mr Pickles has offered us, and then some years later… we are faced with a bigger problem, we are faced with a bigger bill, we are faced with the fact that families may well have become poorer and can afford that bill far less.

“Whether the [government grant] system is broken or not… we have to live with what we are given. The government is de-risking itself and we are picking up that risk. Whether that is right or wrong, this is not the place to argue that point.

‘The point that we need to be very clear about is that this budget is fit for purpose and will take this borough forward on a growth agenda, with a sympathetic view towards social change.”

The motion to approve the budget was approved. Votes cast were: 27 votes in favour, 11 against and three abstentions.

The vote split along party lines, Tories in favour, Lib Dems against with the exception of Cllr Wendy May (Lib Dem, Stoughton), Cllr Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke) and Jenny Jordan (Con, Merrow) who abstained as the sitting mayor and chairman of the meeting.

* The GBC element is only increasing by 1.9%

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *