View from the opposition as Council Tax rise approved

By Midsomer Norton & Radstock   |   Editor   |
Saturday 26th February 2022 12:00 pm

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B&NES residents will see their Council tax bills increase by more than £55 in April.

Liberal Democrat Council leaders hailed their budget as “maximising ambition”, investing in the future and avoiding damaging cuts as they make £11.8million in savings.

Deputy Leader Richard Samuel, the Lib Dem cabinet member for resources, said: “This is a budget that maximises our ambition to make Bath and North East Somerset a better place, that maintains the move towards carbon reduction, particularly in transport, that invests in key services and provides the building of new council houses for the first time in over thirty years.

“It is also a budget that invests in the future, not only for residents but also in the Council itself to enable it to become a better performing Council, able to do more and better for all our residents. This programme has to be fully funded and to avoid damaging cuts it is necessary to raise Council tax, but only as little as possible.”

The average band D household will pay the authority an extra £45.73, an increase of 2.99 per cent.

Council tax bills also include payments to Avon and Somerset Police, which has increased its precept by £10, and the amount going to Avon Fire and Rescue Service is up by £1.52.

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s budget for 2022/23 passed on February 15th with 34 votes in favour to five against, with 18 abstentions.

Conservatives: Group leader Vic Pritchard said the Lib Dems’ “skewed priorities”, an “irrational fear of cars” and an “unnecessarily draconian response to a hypothetical terror attack” had made it unnecessarily difficult for people with disabilities to drive into central Bath. Cabinet members rejected that claim.

The Lib Dems previously highlighted his comments in a Somer Valley FM interview when he said his party would “probably have to do something of a similar kind this time round” to the

redundancies under the last Conservative administration. Mr Pritchard said those job losses were necessary because of the £1.7million deficit inherited from the Lib Dems.

His colleague Councillor Michael Evans said last week’s cabinet meeting turned into a “Tory-damning party political broadcast” with no chance to reply. He said the Council should scrap the ring of steel “nobody asked for, that nobody wants and which is as unnecessary as it is unsightly” and save the £128,000 operating costs instead of cutting £126,000 from the library budget.

Labour: Group leader Robin Moss described the budget as “difficult but somewhat disappointing”. He warned that holding one in 50 posts vacant will cause issues next winter when sickness levels increase, and said any savings would be lost bringing in agency staff.

Independents: Councillor Shaun Hughes said the political game-playing over parking charges planned for Midsomer Norton and Radstock that were later scrapped was “negative and toxic”, while Cllr Dr Yukteshwar Kumar said residents “aren’t as foolish as they think”.

Independent group leader Karen Walker criticised the lack of detail in the budget and said it placed a huge burden on residents.

Green: The sole Green Councillor, former Lib Dem cabinet member Joanna Wright, also expressed concern about the level of detail in the budget and called for financial training for all Councillors: “The leader and deputy leaders are clearly asleep at the wheel, senior management are using obfuscating economic language, residents deserve better.”

Lib Dems: Council Leader Kevin Guy said: “We are investing in new staff, we are increasing spending on key services, we are enhancing our neighbourhood services, we are getting the basics right and we are protecting our children and adult services.”

Deputy Leader Sarah Warren said the budget “clearly demonstrates this administration’s ongoing commitment and determination to use all tools at our disposal to tackle the deepening environmental crisis with seriousness and speed.”

Councillor Dine Romero, the cabinet member for children and young people, communities and culture, gave her assurance that – as long as she has any influence – Bath Central Library is not having services cut, and it is not being merged with one stop shop services, following concerns from campaigners.

S. Sumner, LDRS

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