Cllr David Leaf, Cabinet Member for Resources writes about our Budget plans.
“On Wednesday evening our Budget for Bexley was approved by Councillors.
Our budget planning started immediately after our landslide election victory last May, and builds on our successful strategy of recent years by, once again, taking a four year approach to setting the budget and being completely open and transparent about it.
In fact this has been the most open and transparent budget setting process we’ve ever had, including two lengthy budget scrutiny meetings where Councillors of all parties were able to question myself, the Leader of the Council and Cabinet colleagues on the plans in detail.
They worked well and overall it saw some six hours of detailed scrutiny of the budget. That can only be a good thing and lead to a better budget.
It was also an opportunity for Labour Councillors and their supporters to set out their own ideas so they could be considered in detail and possibly included in the final budget plans. But, once again, they failed to come up with a single idea, either at those two budget scrutiny meetings or by the final deadline for budget submissions which was 25th February.
And on the night of the Budget meeting they produced just a half page sheet of A4 with a single proposal on – to spend £1.5m on housing, but without saying how!
Remember of course that when they ran Bexley, they increased Council Tax by 40% in just 4 years; in their first year it went up by 14.9% alone. Then in 2011, 12, 13 and 2014 they voted against no Council Tax rises. So we know what they think about increasing Council Tax – they love doing it and hate not doing it.
Our manifesto – which was backed by 55% of residents last year – was clear about Council Tax, that as Conservatives we will always be a low tax Council, but where we need to increase it to ensure we continue to provide high quality services for residents we will do what we need.
That is why we have agreed a 2.9% increase for this year – the alternative is to cut £3m from frontline services, putting for example vulnerable adults in need of care at risk.
But let’s be clear, over our time in office Council Tax has only risen by an average of 1.6% a year, and in fact it is £165 lower now in real terms than it was in 2006. Compare that to the average annual rise of 10% a year by Labour, and of course, as we know, if they had won again in 2006 they intended annual Council tax rises of 8% a year.
Our budget sets out a clear, four year plan, delivering on the trust residents have in our commitment to Bexley.”