Wiltshire Publications

Councillors defend their budget – ‘choice of free car parking or cutting essential services’

LOCAL Conservative councillors have spoken in defence of Wiltshire Council’s budget and explained why an alternative budget, put forward by Liberal Democrat councillors, would have been ‘unworkable’. The Liberal Democrats said that their alternative budget would have allowed one hour’s free parking to be reinstated in Wiltshire car parks. However, their alternative budget proposal was voted down by members of the full Wiltshire Council last month. Following the meeting, Liberal Democrat members were angry that councillors did not record how they voted (as reported in White Horse News 15th March).Westbury Wiltshire coun-cillor, Mike Cuthbert-Murray has defended the voting of Wiltshire’s councillors for Westbury, saying, “Following your last edition front page headline ‘Councillors should hang their heads in shame.’ I would like to clarify that all unitary councillors for Westbury supported and voted for the car parking amendment laid down by the Liberal Democrats, at the recent budget meeting of Wiltshire Council.”However, Wiltshire councillor, Jonathon Seed, has defended the ruling Conservatives’ adoption of their budget, saying that the Liberal Democrats’ alternative proposals would have been ‘high risk”.He said, “The Conservative administration presented a balanced budget involving the detailed management of funding of over £800million whereas the Liberal Democrat opposition focussed virtually the whole of the day’s debate on items involving less than one per cent of the total budget spend. “Their message was high in gloss and low in detail. The Liberal Democrat tactics at the meeting denied the members of the council the opportunity to debate the other 99 per cent of a Wiltshire Council budget that was widely praised by opposition and administration members of the council alike as a budget which they welcomed.  “Even sadder was the Liberal Democrat refusal to put any significant detail to their proposals for their headline grabbing amendments some of which were described as “high risk” by the officer to whom they submitted their proposals for analysis.   In effect the Liberal Democrat leader had, yet again, not done his homework.”Fellow Conservative Wiltshire Councillor, Roy While, said that he voted against the Liberal Democrats’ alternative budget as it was a case of free car parking or cutting essential services. He said, “The £327million council budget is a challenging one. Front line services are being maintained including libraries. More money is being put into looking after children and the elderly. We are NOT slashing services like some councils are doing and we are not putting the council tax up. We also want to keep buses running. “Yes it would be nice to have some free parking but a number of shops take part in the refund scheme and the council has listened by drastically reducing the season ticket prices and freezing the charges until 2014.“What readers may not be aware of are the savings already made last year and the further savings of £29million needed this year. It is a tough budget and as outlined in the business plan the savings will come from changing the way we do things, including buying goods and services and by being more efficient.”   In reply to Liberal Democrat criticism that the vote was kept secret, cllr Jonathon Seed replies, “It is also utterly unfair to claim that Conservative councillors tried to prevent their voting intentions from being known.  The move to prevent the lengthy “recorded vote” process being activated at every opportunity demanded by the Liberal Democrats was simply to allow more time for debate of the budget and in any case all subsequent votes were taken in public and  by a show of hands or verbal agreement by members.”