Friction over extra spending in Warwickshire council budget

GV - Shire Hall, Warwick. NNL-161201-211317009
GV - Shire Hall, Warwick. NNL-161201-211317009
  • A one-off additional £3million in funding announced for Warwickshire was designed to help ease the impact of cuts
  • After a lengthy debate, Conservative party members were defeated in a bid to have the cash kept largely in reserves
  • Lib Dems, Labour and the Green Party agreed to divide the money up to help community groups for the next 12 months

Councillors have agreed how to spend an additional £3m of government funding - voting for investment in youth, social and mental health services.

But the decisions have been slammed by Conservative party leaders as irresponsible and a waste of public funds when the council does not know the extent of the financial pressures to come.

Warwickshire County Council was granted an additional payment of £3 million each year for the next two financial years to help ease financial pressures on councils.

And after a lengthy debate and vote at a full council meeting on Tuesday, members agreed that £1 million over two years will be invested in adult social care schemes - an area supported by all parties during the debate.

It was also agreed that £600,000 will go to front-line community work for mental health issues in young people.

Another £600,000 will be invested in supporting front-line family support workers and a one-off fund of £108,000 will ensure Leamington and Rugby libraries do not need to undergo Sunday closures for the coming year.

“The people have been badly let down by Labour and the Liberals who have failed to plan for the future

Izzi Seccombe

Road safety schemes will have £100,000 and £35,000 will go to boost cycling development. A £42,000 fund will go to the fire and rescue service’s Arson Reduction Scheme for young people.

The remaining £540,000 of the one-off money for 2016/17 will saved to help manage implementation of any further spending reductions.

After pushing through the amendment in the council chamber, Cllr Jerry Roodhouse, Liberal Democrat group leader in the county, said: “We’re pleased with the outcome which strikes the right balance for using this one-off money.

“The Conservatives wanted to hold back more than we were prepared to accept, but in a council with no overall majority they were unable to get their own way on this occasion.”

The decision was voted through by 32 to 26 votes following an amendment put forward and agreed by Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green Party councillors and a lengthy debate.

But the vote has been slammed by Conservative councillors who instead called for the money to be invested into tackling the “significant 
financial pressures” in adult social care” while keeping all leftover funds in reserves.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Conservative leader of the council, said: “True to Labour’s principles they have decided to spend almost every penny the Conservative group on the council fought so hard to obtain from the government.

“Supported by the Liberal Democrats they have chosen to waste valuable and carefully sought money that would have helped the people of Warwickshire in the future.

“We have spent three years making difficult, but necessary, decisions to ensure that we continue to protect vital services and support vulnerable people and we have retained the support of the public throughout.

“The people have been badly let down by Labour and the Liberals who have failed to plan for the future.”

Cllr June Tandy, leader of the Labour group, defended the party’s actions and said: “The Conservative leader of the council were extremely upset when they didn’t get their own way. Their own government told them that they needed to use reserves to help out with the financial problems they have.

“As a result of the campaigning by some MPs, Warwickshire got £2.99m, the Tory proposal was to largely put all of it back into reserves rather than spending on services.

“We decided to put more money into adult services, we felt that the money allocated needed to be used to benefit the people of Warwickshire now.

“We did put some back into reserves, however, my concern was that the Conservatives wanted to save the money to ensure that they had it to protect services next year, in time for the county council elections.”

The decisions were made following the setting of the budget earlier this month where cuts were confirmed to services across the county.