Council's Labour group responds angrily to annual budget approval

On Monday evening Dudley Council approved next years budget, which announced a Council Tax rise of 3.99% and £10million investment in local services - a move which Dudley Labour Group slam as a "budget of extravagance and opulence in at the expense of hardship and austerity."

The Council announced investments in CCTV, bin collections, open spaces and adult social care which were approved at a meeting of full council on Monday evening. Dudley Council’s share of the council tax will go up by 3.99 per cent to cover it – but despite the proposed increase, people will still be paying one of the lowest rates in the country.  Around half of the extra income generated will go directly to helping the elderly and most vulnerable people in the borough.

In response to the budget, and concerns raised by areas unexpectledly rejected at the council meeting, Councillors from Dudley Labour Group Councillors have responded. 

Pete Lowe, Labour spokesperson, and Shadow Cabinet for Finance said, "I was truly surprised that a budget amendment that restores terms and conditions to our staff, protects our green belt and green spaces and places Police Community Support Workers and Community Protection Officers on our streets should be rejected by the Tories. This is only one week after they agreed to waste £4million on a posh refit of the Council House and gave two senior Directors a bonus of £50k a year despite a salary of over £100,000. Whilst people in our communities call for safety, the Tories are protecting their privilege and building a Palace for Patrick."

Leader of the Labour Group, Qadar Zada,added: "This year’s budget exposed the Tories for what they are, a party of privilege, who, whilst handing our rewards for the richest earners in our council, deny positive benefits for our thousands of dedicated staff. At the same time we learned they had spent £11m so far this year on agency and management consultants at £1000 a day, that they plan to spend an additional £2m on staff who will never leave the council house, and that they will spend a further £4m tidying up the Conservative leaders Headquarters while rejecting resources to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour. The Tories budget is nothing more than extravagance and opulence for themselves at the expense of hardship and austerity for our residents.”

Supporting Councillor Zada's comments,  Councillor Asif, St James Ward, said, ''The people in my ward should not have to pay for this unnecessary extravagance. I voted for the amendment proposed by Councillor Pete Lowe because my conscience told me to support the interests of the many, not the few.''

Chris Barnett, the Labour Councillor who last week moved a motion to reduce carbon emissions, added 'Last night we saw how seriously the Tories take environmental issues. Not one word, or one pound is to be invested in making our community carbon neutral. The budget showed utter contempt for the environment. Our amendment proposed to spend £280k on the environment, which the Tories rejected and instead agreed to spend the additional money on doing casework for Councillors'

Said Councillor Steve Waltho, who was prevented by the Tories' move to stifle debate from making his contribution ''My ward of St Thomas's has suffered terribly at the hands of government austerity, which has included the closure of the much missed St Thomas network, so the extra PCSOs and new Community Protection officers would have been a real boost''.

Similarly, Councillor Ridha Ahmed said ''I represent Brierley Hill where crime is rising - and becoming more serious. The additional resources would have been essential to reversing this disturbing trend''.

Judy Foster, deputy leader of the Labour Group also raised concerns with regard to work to improve Stourbridge and Halesowen leisure centres. "This budget puts at risk the Leisure Centre refurbishments in both Stourbridge and Halesowen. The work was originally designed to boost income to the centres and the towns, but we now find ourselves with a project hampered by spiralling costs and mismanagement. We will continue to demand progress on the improvements to the leisure facilities that the people of Halesowen and Stourbridge deserve.'

The Council's budget plans will be discussed on Black Country Week, on Black Country Radio, this Saturday from 10am.


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