‘Common sense’ budget revealed by Lib Dems as tensions rise over cuts
PUBLISHED: 07:01 24 February 2012
As tensions look set to flare with a new wave of cuts going before Islington Council for ratification on Tuesday, opposition councillors have launched an alternative “common sense” budget.
Liberal Democrat councillors say their focus would have been on safer streets, fairness and creating opportunities for potential Olympians, and have revealed a different set of measures to rival Labour’s budget proposals.
Instead of the eight per cent rise in rent for council tenants and 11.5 per cent rise in tenants’ services, the opposition said it would reduce both increases to the rate of inflation by using some of the surplus in the housing account set aside for new homes.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Terry Stacy said: “We need new homes, but at the same time there is a moral responsibility to help existing tenants in this difficult economic climate.”
The alternative budget also includes funding for nine police officers, the reintroduction of separate policing teams for the north and south of the borough, a boost to the council’s existing outreach work to combat gang crime, as well as funding for talented young athletes to train for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Lib Dems say they would also spend £1.5million on pothole repairs and add another £1.5m to funds which Labour has set aside for school building improvements, earmarked for Newington Green School.
Cllr Stacy said the disrepair there was the “worst example of something typical in Islington” and that cash was also needed at other primaries.
The councillors said the initiatives would be made possible by scrapping Labour’s plans for an anti-social behaviour hotline, costing £400,000, by taking out £1.5m from the council’s £1.7m reserves and by overhauling the free school meals scheme to save £2m.
At present any Islington primary school pupil gets a free school meal, regardless of their parents’ income, at a cost of £3.5m per year.
The government subsidises school dinners for children in households earning below £16,000 and the Lib Dems propose extending the threshold to £20,000, and to include both primary and secondary children.
The Lib Dems would also abolish plans to implement more pay-and-display bays and use the £800,000 to improve facilities for cyclists instead.
Cllr Stacy said: “Our budget is about common sense. Hard decisions have to be made with little money, but we just think the council is making the wrong decisions for Islington.”
Lib Dem finance spokesman Cllr John Gilbert said: “Labour talks about fairness while proposing to axe jobs and bring in an inflation-busting rent rise and fee hikes for services.
“When so many Islington residents are struggling in the recession, the council needs to step up to the challenge and take a lead.”