My response given in the budget debate on 28th February, to some of the points made about the Administration’s proposed budget. It does focus somewhat on Children and Learning, but that is hardly surprising, however the first point affects all of us, the Lib Dem proposed an additional council tax rise, their leader stated that it was okay to do so as it wasn’t an election year(!), and the Leigh Town Council rise for some residents of Blenheim:
“I do hope that the residents of Blenheim Park will remember Councillor Longley’s suggestions that as it is not an election year we should tax our residents to the hilt! I am sure he won’t be making that comment when he or his Liberal colleague is facing an election.
I am supporting the lowest possible council tax rise to provide our vital services in every year not just when I am up for an election.
Perhaps Councillor Longley has been in too many meetings with Leigh Town Council, who I and some of my colleagues (including opposition councillors), are disappointed with for their 68% rise in the Leigh Town Council elements of council tax. When looked at over the past 4 years, when this council’s tax has gone up by 4.75% the Leigh Town Council precept has increased by 102%. But it isn’t obviously just Councillor Longley and Leigh Town Council that believe in maximum taxation, but Councillors Terry and Gilbert as well. I believe in minimal taxation, whilst delivering our vital services to those who most need it. I believe the proposed budget does this.
Moving onto the school uniform grant, I do not think it is unreasonable to ask schools who are receiving an increase of 37% in the pupil premium to £900 a year, per pupil – 67,777 next year, receiving a total of £6.1m to help out their pupils, to pick up the entire £13,000 budget. I will be writing to all schools asking them to assist pupils who need a uniform grant to do so out of the pupil premium.
We have difficult decisions ahead with Children’s Centres, we need to offer not only our residents, parents and children, but also the staff and management of these centres stability – we do this through offering a sustainable budget and structure. To suggest increasing their budgets (as the Labour group did) is going back to the old Labour government approach of reckless, unaffordable spending. We have not identified specific ways of saving this money as of yet – to do so would mean that the proposed consultation of parents, providers and members (councillors) would not be a true review of how we can provide sustainable Children’s Centres for the future. The proposal before you to put back in a part year saving of £55,000 is a sticking plaster at best, not providing sustainable Children’s Centres for the long term. I point out this Council’s improvement in Corporate Performance Indicator 9.1 (ensuring that those children from the 30% most deprived areas in Southend are accessing a children’s centre) and renew my commitment to that target for as long as I am a councillor – to improve the most deprived children’s access to Children’s Centres.
Moving to Cllr Woodley’s proposal for this Council to increase the rent for our hardworking, but low paid residents by another 1 or 2%. Those who are receiving Housing benefit in full will be protected, but those on low/middle incomes will be asked for an average of over 6% or 7% extra for their rent. In these economic times this is not something I can support.”
Cllr Woodley made a proposal to increase the rents we charge our tenants in our council houses. The way the system works this money would have been reinvested into the “street scene” or parking. Basically improving the housing that we have and the immediate surrounding area to them. Whilst this is laudable, I really could not support increasing the rent for residents of the Mendip Estate or Suffolk/Surrey Avenue area, by even more – how are they supposed to afford it?