Bedford Borough Council’s Conservative Group voted to support the authority’s budget for 2017/18 at a meeting on Wednesday but slammed the Liberal Democrat & Labour administration for a ‘failure of leadership’ over its financial management.
At the meeting, Conservative Leader Cllr Stephen Moon put on record his Group’s opposition to plans to cut the Council’s subsidy for post-16 school transport which will increase charges or withdraw transport for sixth formers, particularly affecting Sharnbrook Upper School pupils.
Cllr Moon also criticised plans to withdraw the Out of Hours Noise service and the Mayor’s decision to pursue a digital library service instead of a volunteer-managed service that has flourished in Buckinghamshire.
The Conservative Group planned to find efficiencies within departmental budgets to enable the reinstatement of some or all of these and other services. For example, the Group looked at the budget for the Number 13 café / bar which for 3 years running has been scheduled to make over £30k profit despite consistently recording losses. It is again listed to make a profit next year despite the evidence.
Addressing the meeting, Cllr Moon said:
‘I am certain that if we, as councillors, had better and earlier information we could contribute more to the budget process. It is clear that if the Corn Exchange accounts are typical there are further savings which could and should be made.
‘We are united in opposition to the cut in over 16 transport, we do not support the cut in the out of hours noise service, we believe the rejection of community libraries and the cuts in hours at Kempston and Putnoe are mistaken and not cost effective and we do not support the continuing cancellation of average speed cameras.
‘Despite our reservations, we will, with one exception, support the budget as proposed in recognition of the pressures the Council is under and the statutory requirement for a balanced budget. We will continue to work for the restitution of the cuts mentioned above within the context of this budget.’