Row as council keeps its budget secretBy Victoria Smith
January 17, 2012
Taxpayers in Wokingham are being kept in the dark about the next budget, while other local councils have already published details of spending cuts and confirmed a tax freeze.
Councillor David Lee, leader of Wokingham Borough Council, said he did not think consulting on the budget as other authorities do is necessary because it would “just be a PR exercise”.
Cllr Lee said he was “not a believer in fake consultations” and that councillors have been elected to make the difficult decisions of where funds should be directed and spending cuts need to be made.
He would also not be drawn on whether Wokingham people will benefit from a Government grant enabling local authorities to freeze council tax this year.
Bracknell and Reading councils have published details of their budget proposals, including a freeze on council tax, and asked local people to have their say.
Cllr Prue Bray, leader of Wokingham Liberal Democrats, said: “The Conservatives in Wokingham keep everything to themselves until they have to [by law] publish the papers the week before the budget meeting in February.
“Not only do the public have no idea what’s going on, opposition councillors are deliberately kept in the dark.”
Cllr Lee said the ruling Conservatives had the support of the public to make tough decisions on the budget and that any consultation would not be useful when the borough’s budget is already cut to the bone.
He said the council will be getting £119 per person to spend in Wokingham in the next financial year and it continues to be the worst funded local authority in the country.
The council held a consultation exercise last year, which was overseen by external consultants from Ernst and Young, regarding its priorities and vision.
Cllr Lee said this involved people and partners, such as the police, in establishing what the council’s vision should be.
Changes already announced for next year include a £60 charge for green waste collection.
He said: “People say it should be free. We will raise £1 million by charging for the green waste collection. If we decide to make it free, what services would be cut?”
The council will set its budget on February 23.