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Tory bid to stop council freeze on Wirral neighbourhood funding fails
WIRRAL Tory councillors have failed to halt a Labour freeze on neighbourhood funding cash.
The borough’s Conservative group had blasted the administration’s decision to suspend money being given to local area forums and fought to reverse it when full council met on Monday night.
The move was part of a cabinet ruling to freeze all "non-essential" expenditure but in a notice of motion, Tory leader Cllr Jeff Green said it would directly affect local communities’ priorities such as bringing in 20mph zones, cleaning up children’s play areas and tackling fly-tipping.
However council leader Cllr Phil Davies insisted that the cuts were necessary to help to address a current budget overspend of £17m.
He also told how extra cash has now been released for communities to address their road safety issues if they wish.
He said: "I understand the temptation to spend a long time talking about who might be to blame for the budget challenges, however rather than try to score political points, we should make sure that we do close the shortfall.
"Contrary to the Tories' notice of motion on neighbourhood funding, it has not been cut but it has been suspended.
"I am pleased to say that we have been able to release £220,000 so that each area forum can spend £20,000 on road safety such as 20mph zones.
"In addition, the urgent restructuring of senior management will also save money for the council."
But Cllr Green said he was "concerned" that neighbourhood funding was seen as "non-essential" by officers and said other groups should have been consulted on the matter.
He told the meeting: "We were told about the matter by email and that was the wrong way to go about it - there should been more consultation about priorities.
"The public will not accept decisions being made behind closed doors about what is being done on their behalf."
He added that Labour should reconsider the freeze following the decision to invest £200,000 on the authority’s HR department and an extra £300,000 on new executive directors.
But Cllr Davies said: "I think I will take no lessons from the Conservatives who spent £4m giving people a bribe on council tax including those who didn’t pay it in the first place.
"The reality is, whether we like it or not, we have a budget shortfall and I believe we have to work across al parties."