Conservative Councillors at a recent Cotswold District Council asked the Council to stop the Council spending on everything except services required by law, such as refuse collection and planning.
The Conservative amendment to the revised budget put forward by the Council’s Liberal Democrat administration responding to the funding pressures caused by Covid-19 read as follows:
‘As Europe stands on the precipice of a second COVID-19 wave, Cotswold District Council needs to be as prudent as possible and needs to put a hold on all but essential spending until the COVID-19 second wave situation can be fully assessed in the February 2021 full council budget meeting.
Until February 2021, this council should act like we are on the verge of a financial emergency and take every possible step to preserve our resources and reserves.
In addition, we should only concentrate on the core council services we are mandated to deliver and ensure we are not forced to make any cuts to these core, mandated services in the future. This emergency action should be temporary, and reviewed once the COVID-19 second wave situation is more transparent and / or reviewed again at the full council budget meeting in February 2021.’
If passed, this amendment would have seen non-statutory services that the Council provides including garden waste collections, leisure provision at the District’s leisure centres and the Council’s work on economic recovery stripped of funding and therefore not able to function until the new financial year starts in April 2021.
The amendment was defeated by Liberal Democrat, Independent and Green Councillors and Cotswold District Council’s Deputy Leader, Mike Evemy, branded the proposal as irresponsible.
Cllr Mike Evemy (LD, Siddington & Cerney Rural) said: “I’ve been working with the Council’s finance officers over the past three months to put our finances in a position where we can weather the financial storm that the Covid-19 pandemic has wrought. Our revised budget allows us to do just that.
“We set a revenue budget earlier in the year that sought to tackle the Council’s £1million budget blackhole left to us by the previous Conservative administration as well looking at ways we can bring more revenue into the Council. Our Government funding has been cut by 60% since 2010. The revised budget built on that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and importantly allowed us to maintain frontline services and continue with our work to tackle the climate emergency, deliver truly affordable housing and help our economy recover.
“This Conservative amendment to the revised budget would have stopped all that work as well as led to chaos as non-statutory services would have had to stop. The Conservatives suggested during the debate that they didn’t want to close down these services, but that would have been the effect of their amendment. Residents of the Cotswolds deserve an Opposition that does its homework and presents viable alternatives to the Council.’
- Council has a budget for future years – its Medium Term Financial Strategy (MFTS)
- The MFTS agreed by the previous Conservative administration assumed a £1m saving in 2020/21 with no supporting income increases or cost reductions – our budget ‘blackhole’
- Over next four years MTFS requires £4m in cost savings or income increases, approx 20% of CDC budget