Rethink, reverse, review, protect and pump prime - Budget proposals from the Liberal Democrats

March 5, 2019 4:15 PM
Newcastle's Liberal Democrats Opposition has announced a programme of budget amendments ahead of this Wednesday's Newcastle City Council meeting which will set the authority's budget for 2019-2020.
Newcastle Lib Dem Focus team 2018The Liberal Democrats Opposition's budget amendments seek to:
· Rethink Labour's planned cuts to keep the city's museums open on Bank Holidays
· Reverse Labour's proposed funding cut to the city's Libraries to preserve opening hours at current levels;
· Commit to an open and transparent review of the provision of Household Waste Recycling Centres in the North of the City, rather than operating on the presumption of the closure of Brunswick in 2020/21;
· Abandon Labour's plan to charge disabled blue badge holders for using city car parks and maintain the Shopmobility scheme at its current level;
· Pump prime the voluntary sector with a £1m injection of cash for capacity building via the Newcastle Fund.
Firstly, the Liberal Democrats Opposition would axe Labour's weak proposal to spend £800,000 on an anti-fly tipping leaflet campaign and a ward spring clean. The Labour administration has tried this before with limited effect, and residents see through these populist schemes in the run up to election time.
Secondly, the Liberal Democrats Opposition would redirect funding from the Great North City Fund, announced to great fanfare last year as a bonus from the Airport Dividend and underutilised since, to provide crucial support for valuable voluntary and community sector provision across the city.
Liberal Democrats Opposition spokesperson for Resources Cllr Colin Ferguson said:
"The Opposition budget amendments seek to demonstrate that the Labour council are making poor decisions when it comes to spending the public's money. They are proposing to cut well-used and valued services at the same time that they are planning to increase spending on gimmicks.
We are setting out an alternative approach which responds to the public's concerns and seeks to safeguard important services which Labour want to axe. The Liberal Democrats proposals are easily achievable by prudently utilising one-off funding identified this year and more efficiently spending earmarked reserves. We believe our budget amendments are more likely to be supported by the public than those put forward by a Labour administration which has long stopped listening to Newcastle's residents."
On the future of Brunswick HWRC (tip), Liberal Democrats Opposition Leader, Councillor Anita Lower, said: "We do not believe sufficient effort has been made to explore ways of managing demand generated by out-of-area users, and Labour's closure proposal risks unfairly penalising those who legitimately pay for the service. Consultation should be open and transparent, not based on a foregone conclusion."
Liberal Democrats deputy leader of the Opposition Councillor Nick Cott said: "The Liberal Democrats proposals provide an additional £1m to the Newcastle Fund as a ring-fenced reserve, used to build strategic capacity in the Voluntary and Community Sector. We wholeheartedly support this Fund, which we set up when we were in charge of the City. Labour would do well to recognise the contribution local voluntary and community groups have on our City."
Speaking about blue badge parking and the Shopmobility service, Shadow Spokesperson for Transport and Air Quality, Councillor Greg Stone, said: "We are appalled that the Labour administration have deliberately targeted disabled people for cuts, making a mockery of their claims to be protecting the most vulnerable and their equalities agenda. It is particularly despicable that the council claims not to have the money to support these services when it is generating £8.5m 'profit' a year from parking income. Labour seem more prepared to take the easy route and cut provision, rather than enter into discussions with disability groups and disabled service users."
In addition, the Liberal Democrats will be announcing several new challenges to the administration, including:
· calling on Labour to account for exactly how they intend to invest any new revenue arising from charging introduced as part of their air quality plans;
· calling on Labour to itemise how the £8.5m 'profit' from parking income and fines is being spent
· demanding Labour pledge to match the Liberal Democrats' new policy on efficient use of reserves, by placing a presumption of a time limit for the use of all earmarked reserves, ensuring their timely and efficient usage for the benefit of all residents;
· challenging Labour to provide more information on their capital investment strategy, including accounting for why so much funding goes to the City Centre.