29th Mar, 2017

Council tax up to fund roads and protect children

Rob George 15th Feb, 2017

INVESTMENT in the county’s roads, cash to protect vulnerable children and efforts to tackle congestion have all been revealed in Worcestershire County Council’s annual budget.

Approving a 2.94 per cent increase in Council Tax for the year ahead, council leader Coun Simon Geraghty labelled his plans ‘a people’s budget’.

But his plans were immediately rejected by Labour leader Coun Peter McDonald who said the budget ‘pitted those who have against those who haven’t.’

The increase equates to a £33 per year increase to a Band D property and Coun Geraghty said the propoals were based on feedback from residents across the county.

“This is a people’s budget, a budget shaped around the priorities of the people of Worcestershire,” he said.

Two per cent of the increase is to be ring-fenced for adult social care services to support older people and adults with disabilities.

Investments include £3.5million next year to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.

More money will be spent on increasing capacity to support front line social workers along with additional support for care leavers.

An extra £5million pounds is being invested into tackling traffic congestion over the next two years with £6million earmarked over the next two years to improve pavements.

“Quite simply we want some of the best roads and pavements in the county by 2022,” Coun Geraghty added.

The figures reveal a further £29million will be slashed from the authority’s budget in the coming year.

In response, Coun McDonald said: “This is not the people’s budget – it divides people; it divides those ‘who have’ with those ‘who haven’t’.

“This budget does not look after the people who we’ve been elected to serve.

“Every year we get the same load of nonsense about how highways will be improved,” he added.

Coun McDonald then proposed an alternative budget with a smaller rise of two per cent, slashing pay packets of bosses earning more than £100,000 a year and investing £1million into children’s centres.

The Labour group’s plans, described as a ‘credit card budget’ by Coun Geraghty, were rejected by 41 votes to 11.

A further alternative budget was proposed by ‘2013 group’ made up of Liberal Democrats and Greens which called for a three per cent rise in Council Tax.

2013 group leader Coun Liz Tucker said funding of adult social care was a ‘national crisis’ and said the proposals would add more than £2million to the council’s coffers to tackle the problem.

Despite warm praise from Coun Marc Bayliss for a ‘principled proposal’ to raise Council Tax, the group’s proposal was out voted by 40 votes to 10.

Councillors approved the budget for 2017/18 by 32 votes to 21.