UPDATED: Leaders on collision course as Wirral Council meets to set budget tonight (From Wirral Globe)
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UPDATED: Leaders on collision course as Wirral Council meets to set budget tonight
AN explosive budget council meeting is in prospect tonight with Wirral Tory group preparing to submit a series of controversial proposals that clash with those of the Labour administration.
One particularly bitter barb is a call for £130,000 of tax payers’ money to be withdrawn from Trades Unions.
Tory group leader Cllr Jeff Green said: “As trades unions are wealthy organisations we do not believe the council tax payer, or school budgets, should be expected to fund full time union officials.”
Following acceptance of a council tax top-up grant, a previously assumed 2% tax increase became unnecessary and Labour's recommendation before Tuesday’s meeting will be for the tax to be frozen.
But Tories want the budget to include reverting car parking charges to pre-April 2012 levels; reinstating the ‘free after three’ parking initiative; halving garden waste collection charges and freezing all council fees and charges at current levels for a year.
They are also demanding all school crossing patrols should be protected; plans to turn off street lights be reversed; anti-dog fouling measures increased and £1m invested into a programme of pot hole and pavement repairs.
Further proposals include a call for reinstatement in full of the pensioner discount scheme of 7.76% for households where all occupants are aged over-70. This has been reduced to 5% in the new budget.
Councillor Green said: “If the Labour budget goes through, the only people who will be paying extra will be pensioners.
“It is the economics of the mad house."
Council leader Phil Davies said: "I've seent the Tory proposals in some detail now and they're completely lacking any new vision for Wirral.
"There's all the usual Tory criticism of trade unions and staff training, but not a single new idea.
"To be honest, I expected far more from a group who want to be considered as a serious opposition."
Liberal Democrat leader Phil Gilchrist said: “This is not a time for tinkering but a time for straight talking.
"The old model of ‘getting and spending money’ has broken down, both through the banking crisis and mistakes made closer to home.”
“School Crossing Patrols are provided to help children walk to school safely. We are opposed to raiding school budgets to pay for this public service.”
“Turning off street lighting by cutting lamps here and there isn't working, this should not be a hit-or-miss service. This muddle has to end.”