‘Lies’ clash as parties go head to head on budget

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MORE than £2million of service cuts, and £18.3million of ‘efficiency savings’ have been approved at County Hall.

At a meeting last week, a call to cancel cuts to youth services and services for older people was thrown out.

Critics accused leaders of ‘putting roads before the vulnerable’ – but the leader at Bucks County Council branded the claim ‘lies’.

Plans approved by the full council mean council tax will be frozen for a second year.

And County Hall’s lowest paid employees have been given a pay rise of £250.

Putting forward the plans, Councillor Martin Tett, leader at County Hall, said the proposals provided the ‘best balance’ for taxpayers.

But leaders faced calls to slash £15.94million from a controversial waste reserve programme, and £10.5million from capital spending.

Instead, bosses were told to focus their efforts on selling vacant council-owned properties, after an amendment was put forward by Liberal Democrat boss Mary Baldwin.

Calling on leaders to cancel £10million of cuts for older and disabled people over three years, and a shake-up of school improvement services, she said: “We believe you have got the balance wrong.”

Mrs Baldwin also called for £1.5m of childrens’ safeguarding savings to be scrapped, and for plans to charge for Connexions youth services to be thrown out.

Mr Tett said the council plans to inject £30million over two years to improve the county’s roads.

He said the authority intends to invest heavily in the county’s schools, with the Aylesbury Vale Academies among the big beneficiaries.

And the County Hall leader said the budget included £18.3million of efficiency savings.

He told the chamber: “Although we have still had to make just over £2m of service reductions, these have been targeted at our back office services and thus protecting frontline services wherever possible.”

Conservative Timothy Butcher described it as a ‘wrecking amendment’ and said: “Essentially it’s just been scribbled on the back of a fag packet.”

Mr Tett responded: “I had to check we’ve got a Lib Dem opposition, because it sounded like a Labour opposition. They oppose efficiency savings.”

And he continued: “Over half our capital expenditure is on people, it gives a lie to the slogan the Liberal Democrats are trying to sell.”