BROMSGROVE District Council rubber-stamped its budget for the forthcoming year at a meeting last Wednesday (February 25).
The authority’s district coucil tax precept was frozen for this year and, among the expenditure, was funding for free evening parking and an allocation of 25 per cent of this year’s New Homes Bonus (NHB) worth £87,000 for community schemes.
The financial plan also allocated an extra £23,000 to economic development projects and £30,000 to the essential living fund, which will be matched by Worcestershire County Council.
The Conservative councillors voted in favour of the budget with Labour members abstaining and those in the Independent Alliance Group voting against it.
The alternative budgets by Labour and Independent Alliance Groups (IAG) were rejected by the Conservative members, with Labour councillors voting for their budget and abstaining from the vote on the IAG’s. The independent members voted for the IAG budget and against the Labour plan.
Coun Mike Webb, the Portfolio Holder for Finance, expressed concerns about the comprehensiveness of the opposition budgets and said the fact that 96 per cent of them were the same as the one put forward by the cabinet showed how sound the Conservative one was.
“I am pleased this ambitious budget has been approved by full council.
“I found it incredibly worrying that the budgets presented by Labour and the Independents were very sketchy.
“They refer to cuts to funding, but don’t set out how these cuts would be accommodated, and what impact they would have on services.
“This Conservative budget has protected frontline services, whilst giving back to Bromsgrove residents, and sets out clearly the next steps for the district.”
Coun Webb also defended the authority loaning £11.5million to pay for the brand new Dolphin Centre, saying the current one was coming to the end of its lifespan, looked tired and it needed to be replaced with a better one.
He added as well as improving the health and well-being of residents by offering them reasonably priced gym facilities and swimming pools, it was also needed for schools across the district to use.
“It also benefits the heallth of the town centre businesses as once people have been to the gym or for a swim, many head down onto the High Street.”
And he said claims by other councillors that the loan would take 50 years to pay back were over-exaggerated, adding the authority would pay it off as soon as possible.
Included in the Conservative budget, from balances, was funding for the borrowing costs for the Dolphin Centre – that totals £123,000 in 2015/16, £331.000 in 2016/17 and £506,000 in 2017/18.
And there was £380,000 for ‘unavoidable pressures’. They included £95,000 for building control, £79,000 for planning staff and £26,000 to pay for a reduction in funding for the HUB from Worcestershire County Council.