The Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council have today issued their own package of budget proposals and the reasons for such investments. The package, which consists of a number of proposals will be presented by the Liberal Democrats at full council on Wednesday at Shire Hall.
In response to the 2014/2015 Budget, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr. Colin Hay (LD: All Saints & Oakley) said “We welcome the decision that for the fourth year running Council Tax has been frozen.
“Moreover, last year’s horse meat scandal shows how important a properly funded Trading Standards budget is to people and for that reason we are pleased that this has been protected from further cuts.
“It is also reassuring that £500K will be invested to help enable future flood alleviation works, which is undoubtedly going to be money well spent. It is also good to see one off investments in areas of Adult Care, which includes improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
“We recognise that investment does not have to be substantial in order for it to have a positive impact. We are mindful that the budget for 2014/15 has decreased in cash terms by just below £3million, but we would like to see further levels of investment that doesn’t just provide a short-term solution, but has both medium and long-term benefits.
“Although there is a lot we welcome in the 2014/2015 Budget, the state of our roads is important to all residents across Gloucestershire, we will therefore continue to push ahead with an additional £1million into Highways to cover some of the cost caused by the recent bad weather.
We hope that cross-party support will be given to our budget proposals”.
The Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Finance and Change, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) said“Our package of amendments have been put together to help improve services across Gloucestershire. These amendments to the budget have been well researched and can easily be funded.
“We intend to release and extra £1m to repair our roads, spend £1m over two years to help dealing with young people at risk of self harm, provide a free visit for all year five children at the SkillZone.
“We also plan to reduce the price of residents’ parking permits from £80 to £50 per year. Finally we will provide resources to carry out a study into how the £13.9m of pupil premium is being used in our schools, with the aim to share best practice. Our proposals will help will improve services without the need to increase council tax.”
The Liberal Democrats proposals are as follows:
- The bad weather has caused further deterioration to the county’s road network and increased the formation of potholes. The Liberal Democrats therefore recommends an additional £1million from the Council’s Transformation Reserves to be spent on Highways.
- The figures for self-harm appear to be rising alarmingly, and young people are particularly at risk. The Liberal Democrats therefore recommends that the proposed ‘Active Together’ Grant from the 2014/2015 Public Health Budget is reduced from £50K per councillor to £30K and that £1million is invested over two years to build upon existing preventative/early help programmes and services to improve young people’s mental health.
- Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young people from birth to 19 years in England. Opened in September 2012, SkillZone in Gloucester is a unique, exciting engaging and interactive safety education centre which addresses the underlying causes of unintentional injuries. The Liberal Democrats would like to see this invaluable resource further utilised and for every one of the 246 primary schools in the county to bring a Year 5 group. The Liberal Democrats therefore recommends that a one-off investment of £35K to give all Year 5 pupils who are currently on the roll at Gloucestershire’s primary schools an opportunity to have a session at this particular safety education centre from 1st September 2014.
- A benchmarking exercise carried out this month (February 2014) looked at the costs of annual residents parking permit charges across seventeen other Local Authorities including Gloucestershire. The exercise showed our county being within the top three most expensive places to purchase a first car parking permit with Bath charging £100 and Bradford on Avon £90 compared to Cardiff that charges only £5 for a first car resident permit. The Liberal Democrats believe that with the savings that have been made through new contracts for parking permits and virtual parking permits to keep the current £80 for a first car parking permit is excessive and unacceptable. The Liberal Democrats therefore recommends that residents parking permit fees for the first car is reduced from £80 to £50 and for this to take effect from 1st May 2014. The total cost of the change is estimated at £132K per annum based on current levels of permit issue and will be paid for from 2013/2014 council tax surplus.
- The pupil premium introduced in April 2011 is additional funding given to publicly funded schools in England to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap between them and their peers. Despitemany schools using their pupil premium funding effectively to raise achievement levels among poorer pupils. There are concerns that a significant minority were still struggling to show how the money is making a meaningful impact in terms of narrowing the gap between pupils from low income and more affluent families. The Liberal Democrats therefore recommend a £10K study into the use of the pupil premium in Gloucestershire schools to establish a process in order to share best practice. This will come from the already welcomed £50K one-off investment in Education from council tax surplus.
The Liberal Democrats also supports the summary of the recommended option in ‘Annex 4’ of the 2014/15 Budget in terms of the ‘Living Wage’.