Warrington Lib Dem News

Lib Dems support Balanced Budget

27 Feb 2024
At Council logo

We supported the 4.98% increase in Council Tax proposed by the Labour administration at the Budget Council meeting on Monday.

The economy is in a bad way and our national productivity is poor. We are now in recession and Gross Domestic product is predicted to grow more slowly than in most other G7 countries. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says six million people are in deep poverty. Our public finances are in a terrible state and a cross-party committee of MPs has warned that England’s councils are facing a financial crisis that is out of control. Even well-run councils are at risk of going bust in the next two years. Contrary to alarmist reports in the media, Warrington Council is not on the verge of going bankrupt. Headlines like ‘financial chaos’ damage the reputation of the town and will discourage firms from investing here.

Liberal Democrats passionately believe in the value of public services. With ever increasing financial pressures we agree with Labour that creative ways must be found to generate income to safeguard these services. We support many of the investments made by the Administration like housing, solar farms, Birchwood Park and regeneration but not risky investments like the energy company and the bank.

We need better governance, openness and transparency but it is ironic that the external review of governance carried out last February has still not been released by the Government. All we have is a leaked confidential letter from a government minister which we suspect may bear little relationship to the report when it is actually released.

Setting budgets is extraordinary difficult these days because of all the cost pressures and constraints. There is very little room for manoeuvre. In the past we would have prepared an alternative budget but those days are long past. To balance the books, we accept that reserves must be used but these can only be used once. The Tories repeatedly come out with negative comments but refuse to tell us what their budget is. All they do is submit a huge document with masses of amendments, an hour or so before the meeting which no-one has had a chance to study and then express surprise that we not taking them seriously.

We have a number of suggestions for the budget but overall we accept an increase of just under 5% which is the level of increase the majority of councils are agreeing.

Cllr Ian Marks is Warrington Liberal Democrats’ Finance Spokesperson

After the meeting, Group Leader Cllr Bob Barr added:

Regardless of political colour, it is the responsibility of all Parties to pass a balanced budget. The Conservatives voted against the budget which just affirms they don’t care about the vital services the Council provides for the people of Warrington. Their speeches were all about financial matters like assets, treasury management strategy and risk with barely a mention about people’s lives and how many are struggling to cope in the current climate.