A budget amendment by the Labour group on Peterborough City Council failed after the ruling Conservatives denied that bed blocking is a problem in the city.
As part of the debate on the council’s budget plans for the forthcoming financial year, Labour submitted an amendment for social services to receive an “additional £0.6 million of resources in order to tackle bed blocking and the associated increase in social services costs.”
The party also wanted another £1 million to be earmarked for “additional housing initiatives” with the money taken out of the council’s reserves.
However, the amendment on the budget was defeated despite cross-party support before the final 2016/17 settlement was agreed. The budget in its entirety will see £24.1 million of savings made with council tax rising by four per cent.
Opening the debate on the budget on Wednesday (March 9), cabinet member for resources Councillor David Seaton said: “Our budget, unlike many other authorities, does not have a reduction in services.
“We know how challenging the financial scenario is for local authorities as we are moving to a position of self-funding. So our approach is dependent on generating income in new ways.”
Cllr Ed Murphy, Labour and Co-operative member for Ravensthorpe, said: “We are aware that there are people in Peterborough at the moment that are suffering. I disagree with Cllr Seaton, there are cuts to services.
“Even if only one life is improved or saved, it’s worth it. But I think there will be dozens and dozens of elderly citizens of Peterborough who will benefit from this, this year.
Cabinet member Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald said: “This has not been signed off by our officers. Taking £1.6 million out will increase our debt.
“We do not have a bed blocking problem. So putting £1.6 million in when we do not need it is crazy.
“Cllr Murphy, this is coming from the right place, but we need to look at the future and that cliff is ever looming.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Nick Sandford said: “What I hear from Cllr Fitzgerald is an air of complacency, that everything in the garden is rosy.
“That’s not what I pick up as a ward councillor.”
Labour member Cllr Ann Sylvester said: “It’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s rainy day money and it could well save us money in the long run.
“Please, I urge you to vote for this amendment. You know it makes sense.”
Council leader Cllr John Holdich said: “We are not causing any bed blocking. We are setting up a housing company and putting in £14 million to build all types of homes and we built a record number of affordable housing last year.
“Come on people get real. It’s a sensible budget and the more you put in, the more you have to take out in future years.”
Cllr John Whitby, member for UKIP, said: “The first reaction when you hear the amendment is what a good idea. But everyone on the budget working group is well aware of a yawning gap for next year.
“My guess is we are going to struggle a hell of a lot and will need to make cuts.”
The amendment failed by 21 votes to 33.
A short time afterwards, the budget passed with 37 votes in favour, 12 against and five abstentions.