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PARTIES clashed over Solihull Council’s budget last week as Labour claimed it will hit the most vulnerable the hardest.

Council Leader Ken Meeson admitted that “difficult decisions” had been made to ensure the local authority found £11.9 million of savings, while once again freezing council tax.

Council Leader Ken Meeson admitted that “difficult decisions” had been made to ensure the local authority found £11.9 million of savings, while once again freezing council tax.

But Coun Nick Stephens (Lab, Chelmsley Wood) criticised the budget as “just a list of cuts” and fellow Labour councillor David Jamieson (Kingshurst & Fordbridge) 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,” said Coun Jamieson.

“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 would see children’s services hit hard, with £2.16 million savings to be found, focusing on Connexions, children’s centres and unaccompanied asylum seeking children services.

Community services, which handles bin collections, and the health and wellbeing portfolio will lose £1.59 million and £2.11 million respectively.

Fees for leisure facilities, libraries, car parking, pest control and bereavement will all increase.

Despite the borough council’s efforts to freeze council tax, some parish councils’ decisions to increase their precepts, as much as forty per cent in Berkswell, 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.

 

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