Liberal Democrats Launch Alternative Council Budget

"A Budget to help the jobless, people in housing need and small businesses"

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Hounslow Liberal Democrats have launched their alternative Council budget ahead of the Council tax-setting meeting on Tuesday 2 March.  Group leader Cllr Dakers says the Conservative minority administration's budget will hit Social Care services, run the Council’s limited reserves down too rapidly and offer little hope for those seeking a job or easier access to improved housing.  The Lib Dems also set out detailed plans for regenerating Gunnersbury Park and the local history museum. They want to resecure the Cranford Agreement through an Act of Parliament to prevent Heathrow expansion.

Cllr Andrew Dakers, Hounslow Liberal Democrat Group Leader, says: "The Conservative’s Budget proposals will hit some frontline services and would have a negative impact on local businesses. Labour’s local budget proposals seem likely to eat heavily into Council reserves or slow investment.”

“We will oppose the withdrawal of £100,000 from the Social Care budget. This will hit those most in need. This is why, after three years of broadly supporting a 0% increase in Council tax, we now believe a small 0.75% increase in Council tax is required and is the honest approach.  That is just 16p each week for a Band D Council tax payer."

“The increase in street licensing charges would hit local small businesses at a time when many are struggling to survive.  A hike in Pay and Display charges would also hurt them and make it harder for small businesses to compete with Tescos.”


Support for “Real work, real jobs” programme to end benefits dependency.
The Lib Dems propose that £149k should be spent on a pilot job creation scheme.  They want the Council to bid to run a pilot project under the DWP’s ‘Right to bid’ scheme.  A trial would be run in part of the borough and aimed at anyone unemployed and on benefits for more than 6 months. Under the trial participants would be guaranteed part-time work and their Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) would cease.

Making housing allocation easier.
Housing allocation through ‘Locata’ causes stress and anxiety. Cllr Andrew Dakers says: "Automatic bidding technology should be installed so that people are not ground down by years of unsuccessful logging on and bidding for a new home."  The Lib Dems calculate that system improvements would cost about £40k.

Restore the Cranford Agreement.
The Council should use the 1972 Local Authority Act to restore the Cranford Agreement by putting a Bill before Parliament. This would cost about £56k by submitting the Bill with other Councils fighting the expansion of Heathrow.

Support access to English in our schools.
Hounslow's diverse school population means that support is needed to ensure that all children have good English standards. Cllr Andrew Dakers says: “Good English is vital for success at school and beyond.” The Lib Dems propose that £110k is made available for bids from schools and Hounslow Language Service to provide high quality language tuition on the basis of proven needs.

Invest in Gunnersbury Park and local history museum.
The Lib Dems want to see investment in Gunnersbury Park, local history museum and mansions as part of this year’s budget. They have already called on the Council to invest £8m. This should be spread over a 25 year period and funded through prudential borrowing. The cost for the coming year would be £50k. The funding would restore a site of local and national importance.


The resources for the proposals can be provided by:

(1) Restructuring Civic Centre Top Brass. The appointment of a new Chief Executive is an opportunity to review the structure and pay grades at the top. Currently the top 28 posts cost £2.7 million. We believe this cost could be reduced by £150k in 2010/11.

(2) A reduced call on reserves. The Conservative proposal to take £2.4 million from the Council's reserves. The Lib Dems accept the need to call on reserves but believe it is possible reduce the amount called on to £2.25 million. They argue that greater caution is required and that every effort must be made to limit reducing the reserve.

(3) A small increase in Council Tax. The Lib Dems will propose a 0.75% rise in Council Tax.  Andrew Dakers says: “This small increase would be well below the current level of inflation but would help to ensure that resources are available for services and investment that everyone wants the Council to deliver.  The proposal would cost a Band D taxpayer just 16p extra each week.”

He adds that “It is a pity that only the Lib Dems on the Greater London Assembly called for a reduction in the London Precept paid to the Greater London Authority. Their proposal would have saved Band D Council Tax payers 19p per week.  Taken together with our Hounslow proposals this would represent a reduction in tax for Londoners.”


February 25, 2010

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