Refocus Newcastle City Council Budget to deliver real progress on climate emergency and reverse cuts targeting communities and disabled people

March 4, 2020 6:01 PM

Cllr Colin FergusonNewcastle City Council's Liberal Democrat Opposition are tabling amendments to the city council's Budget at tonight's City Council annual budget meeting which seek to adopt a stronger focus on the climate emergency, air quality, and building a more sustainable city.

The Liberal Democrats plans come amid growing concern that the city council's Labour administration is running out of time and energy and is failing to make an impact on major challenges facing the city, including high profile failures on the city's transport strategy. The Lib Dems will set out new approaches to raising revenue designed to create income and shift the agenda to fund the Opposition's agenda on sustainable transport and environmental initiatives such as tree planting.

Lib Dem spokesperson for finance and resources Cllr Colin Ferguson, who will lead the Opposition response in the Budget debate, said

"The Council's procedures stop the Opposition from tabling our full alternative Budget strategy at the meeting, and we have only been permitted to table amendments to the Labour administration's budget. However, the Lib Dem Opposition will use the Budget debate to set out alternative suggestions for income generation and new revenue streams which a Lib Dem council administration will seek to pursue. These include consideration of a land value tax pilot to replace business rates and proposals for a new sustainable transport levy which would enable real progress on addressing the climate emergency and air quality crisis. We do not have confidence that the current administration is doing enough to tackle these issues and we aim to show that a sustainable alternative is possible".

The Lib Dem budget proposals will call for discussions with NE1 to end the Alive After Five subsidy for free parking in the evening, with the aim of reinvesting this in an alternative public transport ticket offer. They also seek to scrap two of the most controversial cuts proposed by the Labour council administration. Their amendments will seek to reverse cuts to the Newcastle Fund and charges for blue badge holders

Lib Dem transport and air quality spokesperson Cllr Greg Stone called the cut to subsidised parking for blue badge holders "an unjustified and mean spirited cut, given the council's own equality impact assessment concludes that it disproportionately targets a protected group, and unnecessary given that there is no clear need to cut this when the service has been successfully sustained this year and the council is generating £10m in annual parking profits."

The Opposition is also calling on the council to listen to concerns expressed by the city's voluntary and community sector about further cuts to the Newcastle Fund, after the council appeared to reverse its planned cuts to this Fund last year. They propose to use the city council's unspent Great North City Fund for events to safeguard the Newcastle Fund instead.