Opposition leader Trevor Wainwright and his labour councillors had Graham Plant leader of the council and the Conservatives on the ropes at the council budget meeting on Tuesday night. Question after question went unanswered as cabinet members paid a special allowance to lead on their portfolios flinched from their responsibilities hiding behind a stock phrase of 'a written response will be provided.'
Questions amounting to over a £1million of taxpayer's money were asked by Labour
Lee Sutton, Central and Northgate ward raised serious concerns about play area repairs in his ward and what the impact on repairs would be following a reduction in the maintenance budget from £8,000 to zero proposed at the meeting. A written answer is pending.
The fees and charges information were received on the day of the budget leaving members dismayed when it was revealed by Labour that the Conservatives were imposing a new charge above the £25 statutory minimum of £120 for kennelling stray dogs, £145 in total.
The question was asked what would happen to the dogs if the fee was not paid with Graham Plant saying that the dogs would be destroyed, causing an uproar in the chamber and an intervention by the Mayor, well known for her love of dogs. Trevor Wainwright said that he was concerned that residents relieved that the council had found their lost pet would be left distraught if they could not afford the new charge and their dog destroyed. A vote was taken and the charge removed despite Conservative opposition.
Lee Sutton proposed £20,000 towards new play equipment on the Beaconsfield as part of a larger £200,000 phased scheme citing the sports and play strategy that says provision is in adequate and that there is community support for much needed improvements. This was supported by Labour only to be voted down by the Conservatives and UKIP.
On a brighter note Trevor Wainwright proposed a £90,000 neighbourhood fund for local groups to apply for grants of up to £1,500 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday, as a fitting tribute to Her Majesty. This gained cross party support and was passed.
Notable questions left unanswered were:
- If the cost of the EU referendum was fully reflected in the budget, with Labour highlighting a potential £65,500 deficit
- Why the cost of council telephones had risen from £25,234 to £51,377
- Why there had been a reduction in grants for neighbourhoods, Creative Arts East and the Eastern Orchestral board totalling £41,000