Wednesday, 13 February 2013

East Sussex County Council - Budget Setting Meeting Review

I went along to the Full Council meeting at County Hall earlier this week to witness a certain motion being passed (more news on that to follow shortly!).

One of the main events of the meeting was the setting and approval by Full Council of the budget for the following year, although Bexhill to Hastings Link Road protesters had other ideas.

Cllr Keith Glazier described the challenges faced by the authority but gave a solid performance even though the meeting was interrupted by the protesters and had to be adjourned at one point for fifteen minutes whilst the trouble makers were removed from the chamber.

A freeze on council tax for the third year in a row and huge capital funding for economic development, roads, schools and broadband in East Sussex were key features.

The Council has agreed its budget for 2013/14 and is sticking to its plans to boost economic prosperity, keep a lid on council tax and make £60 million worth of revenue savings over the next three years.

Deputy Leader Keith Glazier said: “Our budget has been approved and we promise to continue to boost the East Sussex economy – with better road links, such as the Bexhill Hastings Link Road, and better broadband through our go-esussex initiative.

“I'm also delighted that we've frozen council tax for the third year in a row. It is so important that we help people as they try to manage their household budgets where every pound counts.”

However, Councillor Glazier is not ducking the issue of tough times ahead for the Council's revenue budget.

“We are in the same boat as every council in the UK in terms of having to make some very tough choices on our revenue budget,” said Councillor Glazier. “Our plans to save £60 million over the next three years will mean changes and reductions in some services and more job losses.

“We are clear though that we'll do our very best to mitigate any cuts and protect our key frontline services. We are determined to protect the most vulnerable in our county.”

Opposition came from Labour's Jeremy Birch who proved his socialist credentials by tabling an unsuccessful amendment which if accepted would have inflicted £4.1 million pound in extra taxation on East Sussex taxpayers and would have lead to the council failing to qualify for £2.4 million worth of Government grants before proceeding to deliver a national Labour party polical broadcast, in which he reminded us that Labour have not learned from their mistakes and still prefer the policies of tax and spend!

Cllr Birch referred to the Liberal Democrats as Conservatives' poodles after Lib-Dem Leader, Cllr David Tutt tabled an amendment which was hurriedly circulated at the start of the meeting. Cllr Tutt acknowledged that any administration would still have had to make savings and proceeded to tinker with figures to try and present an alternative. Laughably he chose to draw attention to savings being made on consultants that he didn't think went far enough.

Cllr Glazier highlighted the fact that it was ironic that the Lib-Dem Leader should choose to talk about consultants when he was also the Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council who had blown an eye watering £5.5 million pounds on consultants since coming to power in 2007 and thats before you go anywhere near looking at the timebomb that is buried under the asset management scandal that is rocking the council!

Hastings Labour Councillor, Godfrey Daniel provided some amusement to the proceedings with a joke about the team who had recently discovered the remains of King Richard III under a car park in Leicester, were about to embark on their next case to find the back bone of Nick Clegg - ouch!

Members broke up for lunch just after 1pm once the budget had been approved and returned a little later to take questions from members on a variety of issues and to vote on motions.


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