Howard Sykes, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Oldham, last night made an alternative budget proposal to Oldham Council. In a no nonsense proposal to the full meeting of Council he said, “Budgets should be about doing what is best for the Borough and its citizens. We have called our Alternative Budget a ‘Citizens Driven Budget’, because it’s just that – a budget driven by our citizens.”
Howard continued, “We have listened to residents and stakeholders and addressed the issues that fill our postbag and e-mail inboxes; those things the public tell us matter to them most – especially litter/cleanliness, fly-tipping, anti social behaviour and potholes.”
“We therefore present our plans for the Borough, which will include additional investment in:
• A new swimming pool/gym/fitness complex.
• A pothole repair summer blitz programme and the speed up of the local roads repair programme.
• A litter enforcement pilot – not just to address littering and dumping problems, but to look at prevention through education and bringing about cultural change.
• Increasing the number of street cleaning operatives by up to a further eight.
• Additional enforcement officers – not only overturning the cut planned by Labour, but strengthening the enforcement team with a further seven officers.
• Keeping the Central Library and Gallery open on a Sunday.
• Additional support for community operated Community centres.
• Additional youth provision in areas of low provision and/or high levels of anti social behaviour.”
“Clearly the opportunities for investment now available in 2012 didn’t exist in 2008 when the Liberal Democrats inherited a Council on the verge of special measures.The situation was desperate and action needed fast – we put in place an action plan to turn the Council around, get the budget under control, pay off debt and enable the Council to look to the future with optimism. The Liberal Democrats delivered on that plan and within three years Oldham Council was officially financially sound and receiving “industry” recognition – twice in succession were finalists for Most Improved Council of the Year in 2010 and 2011.”
“But, despite those successes and a record of competent financial management which continues in our Alternative Budget before you tonight, I fully expect Labour to deliver the usual lecture on how the budgets are very similar in percentage terms etc. For the record, in 2009 Labour couldn’t be bothered with an Alternative budget and when they finally produced them in 2010 and 2011, more than 98% of their plans mirrored ours – the difference being achieved only by riskier savings targets.”
“Already in less than year, there are clear signs that Labour are back to their bad old ways, they are on a borrowing spree which will see future generations pick up the tab for overwhelming and crippling Council debt! We have dirtier streets, important performance targets being missed and, only last week, Oldham emerged as the 6th unhappiest town in the Country.”
Howard concluded by saying, “I urge all my councillor colleagues to put aside tribal politics, do what is best for our Borough and support the Alternative Budget.”
The proposal was defeated by the Council’s Labour majority, but was supported by Conservative Councillors Hulme and Martin, the other three Tory councillors (Hudson, Sheldon and Barker) voted with Labour.
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