CUTS: Conservative councillors 'would change budget within weeks' if elected
CONSERVATIVE councillors have pledged to make an emergency budget within weeks if they are elected to power in May.
The local party has criticised the budget proposed by North East Lincolnshire Council's minority-ruling Liberal Democrats, which will be debated in full on Thursday.
Council leader Andrew De Freitas has proposed savings to meet the £15 million shortfall in central Government funding this year, as reported.
They include saving £260,000 in street cleaning, £95,000 by stopping the mobile library service and cutting library opening hours, and £30,000 by cutting grass once every eight weeks instead of five.
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Today, the Telegraph prints the Conservatives' proposals, followed by Labour's tomorrow.
On Thursday, North East Lincolnshire Council is holding a full council meeting at Grimsby Town Hall to hear the proposals from each party.
Conservative Group leader, Councillor Keith Brookes, said if voters returned a Tory majority at the May elections there would be an emergency budget within weeks.
A reduction in the number of the council's senior directors and sharing a chief executive with another authority would reap greater savings, he said.
And he also renewed his proposal to scrap the council's newsletter, Linc Up, and cut the number of staff in the communications department.
Criticising the Liberal Democrats' proposal, he said: "It is an election budget – it disguises a lot of deeper cuts coming in the second and third years.
"We believe it should start at the top. We would like to see more sharing.
"At the last full council meeting in November, we proposed sharing a chief executive, which would save £100,000, but it was thrown out.
"That was despite a survey which showed 81 per cent of the electorate were in favour. It showed contempt of the electorate to ignore their views."
He criticised proposals to cut parks and gardens maintenance by £950,000 over four years.
The opposition group leader said: "They are assuming people will take tasks on and cut the grass. I am sure some people will, but it won't be to the extent or the timescale they are hoping for."
Councillor Brookes said this undermined the huge amount of work done by volunteers with the In Bloom groups in Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham.
Conservative councillors said they could not support a budget which left many questions unanswered.
Councillor Philip Jackson (Waltham) said: "Charging people to replace their wheelie bins if they are stolen or set on fire is going to save £125,000 we are told. You are told to leave it at the front of your property, and yet if it is stolen they expect people to pay. That is pie in the sky."
Councillor John Fenty (Humberston and New Waltham) questioned the increase in council income from parking fees of an estimated £700,000 over four years.
He said: "Members have questioned whether this income is sustainable and feasible.
"But it has come before the car parking strategy review in March, so we have no robust evidence.
"Cuts in the tourism marketing budget (£292,000) may well be short-sighted and also impact on these revenues."
He also criticised the ruling administration for promising to save £500,000 from waste collection, but not providing information on how that would be achieved.
"Questions remained unanswered from our scrutiny meetings, yet we are asked to vote on them at the budget meeting," he said.
See tomorrow's Grimsby Telegraph for the local Labour Group's proposals.