CASH-STRAPPED county council chiefs have been forced to backtrack over two major budget proposals after condemnation by leading Labour voices and from the Bishop of Worcester.
The authority has scrapped plans to introduce car park charges at Worcester Woods County Park after opposition by Labour figures including Coun Richard Udall.
Despite asking for the plans to be scrutinised further, Conservative councillors jettisoned the plans before last Thursday (January 24) council meeting.
Controversial plans to cut the budget for the county’s Archaeology and Archive Service by £405,000 have also been amended with £250,000 now being removed from its coffers.
Cuts to the service provoked anger among campaigners and saw the Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev John Inge raise the issue in the House of Lords – the Archaeology and Archive Service also looks after the archives of the Diocese of Worcester.
“The history of a place isn’t in the cold dead stones, or the reams of paper in an archive,” he said.
“It’s in the people that care for them, know the records intimately, and pass on that passion and knowledge to others. It’s in the people who bring those stones, those manuscripts to life.”
Worcestershire County Council is set to increase its council tax take by 3.99 per cent – an extra £48.36 per annum on a Band D property in Worcestershire.
Of that money 2.99 per cent will be used to support the general budget, including proposals to invest millions of pounds in tackling congestion, improving town centres and upgrading railway stations, while one per cent will be ring fenced to cover the council’s burgeoning adult social care bill.
The authority’s budget plans include £2.5million for town centre improvements in Evesham, Redditch, Stourport and Worcester, £5million over the next three years to tackle congestion and £4million for a new footbridge to the north of Worcester.
A revamp of the Sabrina Bridge is also on the agenda while a further £5million is to be invested in upgrading of railway stations.
Council leader Coun Simon Geraghty hailed the investments as essential in supporting the county’s growing economy.
“We have listened to the feedback during the budget consultation process,” he said.
“So we are deleting proposed savings attributed to highways and our countryside service. We are reducing the savings proposals for libraries and the archives service, as well as proposing a new Communities Fund to help enable the changes that need to happen
In response, Labour leader Coun Robin Lunn said: “I’m convinced if we had not had the debate and brought this cut to people’s attention this figure would not have changed.”
The final budget will go forward for approval by full council in February.