Extra £5m earmarked for reserves should be spent on at Devon’s at risk services, Independent councillors will demand at Thursday’s budget meeting
The additional £5m that Devon County Council is squirrelling away in reserves this year should be spent on vital services, say the Independent Group, ahead of Thursday’s budget meeting.
This Thursday (15 February) will see the council set its budget and put back an extra £5m in the Business Rate Risk Management Reserve, in case of unexpected financial difficulty.
Devon’s four-strong Independent group of councillors – Frank Biederman, Claire Wright, Martin Shaw and Jacqi Hodgson (Green Party) are opposing this move and proposing instead that it is spent on funding vital services that are set to be lost.
The group’s proposal is that:
– no health visitor posts are cut (30 posts are proposed to be lost)
– no foster carer loses any income (there are proposals to reduce the income to some foster carers)
– there are no cuts to the schools counselling programme (there is no money for this)
– dangerous pavements in the county’s towns and villages are repaired (this is an ongoing problem and people are falling and hurting themselves)
Frank Biederman, Leader of the Independent Group said: “We’re frustrated at further government cuts, which means higher council tax, again, for far fewer services, again.”
Claire Wright, Deputy Leader of the Independent Group, who seconded the motion, added: Devon’s council tax has soared by almost 20 per cent in just seven years. That’s £250 for an average band D property.
“This year it is set to rise by a further almost five per cent. It’s quite wrong and it is adding huge pressures to those people on low incomes.
“I put the blame on the Conservative government and those MPs in Devon who yet again have voted in favour of unacceptable cuts that damage people’s lives.”
“It’s a predictable disgrace. We are asking Devon County Council to write an open letter to all Devon MPs, expressing disappointment to those who let down the people of this county yet again.
“The government finds money to fund the projects it wants to but unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to support the provision of public services.”
Devon County Council’s government grant has been cut by £155m (76 per cent) since austerity began in 2010.
A further £20m is set to be cut from this year’s county council budget.
Jacqi Hodgson said: “We need to encourage people into fostering, at a time when record numbers of children are coming into the service. Not reduce pay. We know the use of private homes is not in the best interests of children and are much more costly.”
She added: “Frontline services cannot be sustained with persistent chipping away at budgets; any available monies should be spent on keeping them viable, not squirrelled away.”
Cllr Martin Shaw said: “Average earnings for a full-time male employee increased by 0 per cent – nothing – in the last year, while inflation is at 3 per cent, i.e. a decline in real income of 3 per cent. That’s the context in which massive council tax rises are being proposed.”
“Ignoring our pavements is not good for local businesses and has a tremendous cost to the person and the public purse when slips, trips and falls happen.”
The full motion is below:
A – That this council does not put a further £5millions into reserves, at the same time as asking hard pressed, low paid Devon residents to pay more council tax for fewer services than ever before.
B – that part of the five millions is used to maintain the level of pay for all Devon’s Foster Parents, so no one sees a drop in their income.
C – That part of the five millions is used to maintain numbers of Health Visitors so that no posts are made redundant.
D – that part of the five millions is used to maintain the schools counselling services, currently likely to be lost via the public health budget
E – that this council writes an open letter to Devon MPs expressing deep disappointment with those who voted in favour of cuts to Devon’s council core funding
F – that any remaining monies as part of the £5millions, is transferred to repairing pavements in our city, town and village centres.
Frank Biederman added: “We hope Councillors from across the chamber support these amendments, we all have to stand together for the people of Devon, it is clear Rural counties like Devon are the poor relation, when it comes to government funding.”