Your report in last week’s paper of the Warwickshire County Council marathon budget meeting failed to identify the real reason why Labour was unable to support the final budget arrived at after long negotiations between the three party groups, and ended up voting against it.
Labour’s starting position in the negotiations was very clear - they wanted to put £500,000 into next year’s budget, to turn street lights back on immediately without waiting for the benefits of more low-cost LED lighting to bring down the county’s energy bills by means other than part night lighting. In the negotiations they removed the £500,000, but wanted to leave in the budget resolution some ambiguous words to placate their members, about “looking to secure additional funding to switch lights on”. This was totally unacceptable to both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.
The final budget resolution was exactly as proposed by the Liberal Democrats initially, namely a £4 million investment in 2015/16 to accelerate the roll-out of LED lighting whether or not the county is successful in its bid for extra Government funding, and stopping a Conservative plan for further savings of £300,000 a year by 2016/17 from further extension of the part night lighting programme. The energy savings from the LED lights will provide this saving without having to switch more lights off at night.
The Liberal Democrat position on street lighting is clear. Against the background of £92 million of cuts which the county council needs to make over four years, the introduction of part night street lighting - saving £500,000 a year - was proportionate and necessary. We oppose any further extension of the part night lighting programme, and will use the energy savings from LED lights to maximise future flexibility in keeping with community needs.
It’s a pity that Labour couldn’t bring themselves to agree with this forward-looking approach, but I suppose in election year this was too much to expect.
Cllr John Whitehouse, Kenilworth Abbey (Liberal Democrat)