Opposition group responds to County Hall cuts proposals

Simon Galton
Simon Galton

The opposition Liberal Democrat group at County Hall has welcomed some of the £110m proposed cuts by the Conservative administration, but says it has concerns over a number of key services.

The ruling Tory group on Leicestershire County Council announced its budget proposals this week, revealing that up to 700 jobs could go in a bid to save £110m over the next four years.

In a statement following the release of the draft budget, the Lib Demk opposition group said it agrees with plans to tender through e-auctions, for a more effective and efficient placement service for vulnerable children and accepts that several grant programmes such as The Big Society are no longer affordable.

However it is critical of some of the cuts.

One of those singled out for criticism was the removal of subsidies for the “Meals on Wheels” service.

Group Leader Cllr Simon Galton said: “Some of the more vulnerable rely on this service as they are incapable of organising their own meals. If the price is doubled then there’s a risk that they may end up going without.

“If funding is removed we need to put in place a different mechanism to ensure that these people get a good meal each day.”

He also accused the ruling Tory group of promoting false economy over its plans for “Green Recycling Credits” - funding given to Borough Councils to collect green waste, which the Lib Dems say would require authorities to either charge residents the full cost or reduce the service.

Cllr Galton said: “As well as inconveniencing residents, if this caused people to put green waste in their rubbish bins, the County Council could end up paying even more to dispose of it that way, especially with the extra Landfill Tax.

“Leicestershire has one of the best recycling rates in the Country and it makes more sense to encourage people to continue recycling.”

Cuts to street lighting also come under fire. The draft budget proposes to make an additional cut of £1m to street lighting on top of the £700,000 made so far, possibly including total blackouts in some areas.

Lib Dem deputy leader Sarah Hill said: “People have been fairly easygoing about the dimming of lighting in their area, but leaving some areas pitch black is a step too far . We are aware that ambulance services have complained that pitch black areas significantly increase the time it takes to reach their patients.”

The Lib Dems are also calling on the Tory administration to freeze council tax, which would attract a Government incentive grant.