Council under fire over budget

LEADERS at Brentwood Council have come under fire after announcing the 2013/14 budget.

Members of the authority pushed through the proposals for the Town Hall’s next financial year with plans including a council tax freeze along with investments, such as £165,000 for Hutton Community Centre.

However, opposition leaders at the council have criticised the budget pointing at rising council housing rent costs, staffing cuts and using £477,000 from reserves as major concerns.

Lib Dem group leader David Kendall believes the administration’s budget will “hurt” those most in need, adding his party fear for Brentwood’s future.

He said: “This right wing Tory budget not only protects the richest people in our borough but also heralds a major change in how our council is run.

“We cannot support what is in the budget because of a lack of information about how this is going to be delivered or the corporate plan that has been introduced by the Tories with on 14 responses from its consultation.”

Brentwood First leader William Lloyd said the budget was “backwards”.

He added: “The budget fails to deliver anything they want or pledge.

“They see themselves as an entrepreneurial council, but there is no strategy within the budget to deliver social housing or affordable housing.

“I do support the council tax freeze, but it is not a freeze across the whole council as taxes are going up elsewhere, such as parking charges.”

Mike Le-Surf, Labour group leader, said the budget shows the Tory group’s philosophy is “disjointed and piecemeal”.

Mr Le-Surf said: “The Tory-run council once again shows a complete lack of vision and direction for Brentwood in its budget.

“A council tax cut publicity stunt last year lost the council £100,000 in revenue and has now come back to bite the administration as we have to take almost £500,000 from our reserves this year to provide services in the borough.”

Council leader Louise McKinlay hit back at the critics, saying the budget will not only help Brentwood for the next 12 months but will also support the borough in years to come.

She added: “Over the past few years we have cut things back in terms of efficiency savings while protecting frontline services and increasing services at the same time.

“We have introduced new services such as food recycling and family fun days and are looking to bring in more.

“If we want to continue to do this, which is a priority for us, then we have to change how we work. The status quo is simply not an option.”

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