Budget 2018: How did your councillor vote on council tax rise and car parking charges?
PUBLISHED: 13:17 21 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:42 21 February 2018
Budget-setting at North Somerset Council’s meeting last night (Tuesday) was an often-tense affair, with some heated disagreements breaking out. Three amendments were put forward by the opposition groups – and defeated. Here is how your councillor voted.
What is in the budget?
The budget put forward by the leading Conservative group involves £11million in savings.
Council tax will rise by 2.99 per cent, with an additional three per cent ringfenced for adult social care.
Council leaders say their hands are tied, since the authority has been forced to make £101million in savings since 2010 because of the reductions in Government funding.
Council leader Nigel Ashton said: “The difficulty is we are taking decisions we don’t think we should be taking because of the financial situation.”
He said the three per cent council tax precept allowed for adult social care will help, but is ‘nowhere near enough’.
The council voted in favour of the budget, which was not a named vote, and then on the council tax increase, which was named.
Opposition groups also had the opportunity to put forward amendments to the budget. Three were put forward, and the councillors who voted for and against them can be seen on a table below.
Budget amendment one – housing support grant
The first suggested amendment, put forward by Labour’s Denise Hunt, revolved around a £577,000 Government grant for adult social care, only announced by the responsible minister in the past couple of weeks.
Cllr Hunt proposed half of it should be used for housing support, to reverse some of the cuts in that area.
It is estimated 226 people will no longer receive access to housing support as a result of the loss of funding. The Conservative group chose to keep it aside as a contingency.
Cllr Ashton said: “We shall be spending it. It is better to keep it during this year on things that will arise, which we are not aware of, and we have something for back up.”
Deborah Yamanaka, from the Liberal Democrats, argued spending the money would save the council cash in the future.
She said: “It is a preventative measure and to stop part of the cut here would prevent greater spending later on if disabled people and others at risk of domestic abuse are not helped in time.”
Councillors voted against the amendment.
Budget amendment two – children’s centres
The council is cutting £135,000 from its children’s centre budgets, which will likely result in closures in Banwell and Long Ashton. Reduced services are also proposed in Yatton and Pill.
Cllr Mike Bell, leader of the Lib Dem group, proposed cutting some senior staff roles and reducing agency spending in order to retain the children’s centre service as it is now.
Donald Davies, an independent councillor, said: “The whole point of children’s centres is to capture families in need of support who have not been identified. It is the kind of preventative work which we should be doing.”
Conservative group councillor Ann Harley, who represents Banwell, said members should know she fights tooth and nail for every child.
But she said: “The tragedy is, unfortunately the footfall in Banwell Children’s Centre is not there.”
Outreach programmes are being considered for all affected centres, and a consultation will follow the budget. The amendment was defeated.
Budget amendment three – on-street car parking fees in Weston
The meeting grew particularly heated, and occasionally personal, over car parking.
The executive voted in December to increase the cost of parking in the town centre, and start charging from 8am. The estimated figures for how much this will raise is factored into the budget.
By law, the money can only pay to repair car parks, road maintenance schemes and traffic wardens.
But Cllr Mark Canniford pointed out charging in Weston has meant road maintenance does not take up as much of the main budget, because car parking is helping to pay for it.
Cllr John Crockford-Hawley said: “Starting charges at 8am and on Sundays shows a complete lack of understanding about how a town ticks.
“Those who commute are gone by 9am, not 8am. We are going to cause them get out earlier, or feed a machine for an hour.
“On the school run, those who need to take children to school and need to park to let them out have done so by 9am, not 8am.”
Cllr Nigel Ashton concluded the debate by saying: “I don’t want to take this amendment to the budget because we will need to find something else in the budget to replace it with.”
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees said the increase in charges was ‘not new’, which Cllrs Bell and Crockford-Hawley knew. Cllr Bell pointed out that the full council never voted on the increased charges, only the executive.
Weston Central ward Richard Nightingale, who spoke in favour of an upcoming consultation process into car parking, abstained when it came to the vote.
* For more on children’s centres and car parking, pick up the Weston Mercury on March 1.