Peterborough Labour group to unveil alternative council budget which ‘protects Bretton Water Park and key services’

Cllr Ed Murphy
Cllr Ed Murphy
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Labour councillors in Peterborough have promised to unveil an alternative budget in the three week’s time which it says will protect key services and fund the continuation of Bretton Water Park.

Policies including bringing refuse collection in-house and building council houses are included in the budget proposals, which are in response to the budget set out by the Conservative administration at Peterborough City Council.

Last week, the Conservative cabinet unveiled plans to save £20 million to balance its budget. The proposals included no longer running the water park which will save £18,000 a year.

The council, which has had 80 per cent of its core government grant slashed in the past eight years, said it will be up to Bretton Parish Council to take over the running of the water park if it is to remain open.

However, the parish council said it had already set its budget for 2018/19, although it was open to listening to residents' views on the matter.

Responding to the city council’s budget proposals, which also include raising council tax by six per cent (half of which is ringfenced for adult social care), the leader of Labour's council group Cllr Ed Murphy said: “The budget proposal from the Conservative administration of an inflation busting six per cent is a direct result of the Government failing to fund local services.

"Conservative councillors are proposing the maximum increase in tax and have not proposed to make any savings in the special allowances they award themselves.

"Labour budget proposals will look at this matter. Reducing the number of special payments will easily cover the costs of things like Bretton Water Park."

Special responsibility allowances are paid on top of a councillor's basic allowance of £10,100 and are awarded to, among others, cabinet members, opposition group leaders and chairs of scrutiny committees.

Basic allowances and special responsibility allowances went up last April, costing the council an extra £186,000 a year.

Cllr Murphy added: "Labour’s budget proposals will put families, children and the elderly residents first and not councillors' pockets. Central government must fund local services properly.

"In the meantime we are looking at the overall capital program and income levels to ensure that our budget proposals protect services by providing effective services economically and efficiently.

"The council have now taken up some Labour ideas to deal with the housing emergency and in doing so will save millions that they have been spending on bed-and-breakfast, St Michael's Gate and hotel accommodation for the homelessness.

"More Labour policies in future years would save even more on this and we also believe that by running some services such as refuse collection, maintenance, public transport and street cleaning in-house or with other councils, and having our own council housing program, we can make significant budget savings to fund services.

"Labour’s manifesto for Peterborough and our budget proposals will address how services can be protected over several years where the public have control over the type and level of services with a move towards local co-operative and council provision rather than relying too heavily on the costly private sector."

Cllr Murphy also said Labour will ensure there is "better diligence" after the council decided to spend £500,000 towards replacing its contract with Amey, which runs street cleaning services in Peterborough, and after it lost £3 million on its energy farm project.

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Nick Sandford criticised proposals to increase the annual charge for brown bins from £39 to £45 and for charging people £25 to have their bin replaced, even if it is stolen.

Brown bin charges are for the collection of garden waste. Residents can have a second brown bin collected free of charge but will have to pay £25 to get the bin in the first place.

Cllr Sandford also highlighted the decision to close the Travelchoice Centre kiosk at Queensgate Bus Station.

He said: "We know the council has been faced with difficult choices over the budget but some of the choices they have made hit hardest at people who can least afford to pay.

"The brown bin charge has caused our recycling rates to drop and now the Tories are increasing it significantly. But wealthy people in big houses will be able to get extra brown bins entirely free of charge. How fair is that?

"They are also proposing to charge for replacements when bins are stolen. Rich people in big houses rarely have this problem as they have places to store their bins whereas people on housing estates often have to leave them out in front of their houses. So again the rich gain and poorer people suffer.

"The Tories want to shut the bus service enquiry kiosk in Queensgate. How does that square with their supposed policy of encouraging use of public transport?

"They want Bretton Parish Council to take on the running of the water park or they say they will close it. Apparently Bretton Parish Council were not consulted about this and have no provision for it in their budget or in their council tax precept. Again, no prizes for guessing which groups in society will suffer most.

"All in all this budget shows our Tory council in its true colours: socially divisive, environmentally unsustainable and financially incompetent."

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