SOLIHULL'S political parties have clashed over the authority's budget as Labour claimed new spending cuts would hit the borough’s most vulnerable the hardest.
Council Leader Ken Meeson (Con, Dorridge & Hockley Heath) admitted that “difficult decisions” had been made to ensure the council found £11.9 million of savings, whilst freezing council tax.
But Councillor Nick Stephens (Lab, Chelmsley Wood) criticised the budget as “just a list of cuts” and fellow Labour councillor David Jamieson (Kingshurst) told the full council meeting that his party could not support it.
“This budget is a further imposition on the poorest in society in Solihull,” he said.
“There will be cuts to services, there’s no question of that. We’re also seeing increased fees for council services.
“The other thing this budget is predicated on is frozen pay for those that work for this council. This will, for many people on low pay, have a significant impact.”
“We want to see the people that are the most vulnerable protected.”
The budget will see services for young people hit hard with £2.16 million savings to be found, focusing on Connexions, children’s centres and unaccompanied asylum seeking children services.
Community services and the health and well being portfolio will lose £1.59 million and £2.11million respectively.
Fees for leisure facilities, libraries, car parking, pest control and bereavement will all increase.
Despite the borough’s efforts to freeze council tax, some parish council’s decisions to increase their precepts, as much as 40 per cent in Berkswell, principally to fight plans for high speed rail, drew heavy criticism.
“That seems to be near the knuckle,” said Coun Norman Davies (Lib Dem, Olton).
“I don’t think this council could use tax payer’s money to oppose the government. If I was a resident and I supported the HS2, what rights have I got?
“It’s a very strange situation.”
Kingshurst and Balsall councils also demanded high increases, at 20.1 and 11.7 per cent respectively.
When it came to the crucial vote, Labour and the Greens formed an unlikely alliance to oppose the budget while the Tories and Liberal Democrats joined to successfully vote it through.