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Opposition parties condemn Hertfordshire County Council's budget
Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors have joined together to condemn a budget that is “not one for children, the elderly or the young”.
Hertfordshire County Council met on Tuesday to set the budget for the 2014/2015 financial year.
Councillors voted to freeze council tax at 2009 levels for the fifth year in a row.
But the council rejected calls from the Lib Dems to expand its apprenticeship scheme, set aside £9million to improve road, footway and cycle maintenance, restore non-commercially viable bus routes and protect and reinstate school crossing patrols.
It also refused Labour’s proposal to introduce bus passes for young jobseekers and for councillors to use £10,000 of their locality budgets to introduce full-night lighting where there was demand.
The council also voted to cut £1.4million a year from children’s centre budgets for the next four years, and £100,000 from disabled children’s aids, according to Labour Councillor Leon Reefe.
He said this cut was unnecessary as the council had identified a large underspend, and had recently regained £9m it lost in the Icelandic banking crisis.
The representative for Borehamwood North said: “I agree with the decision to freeze council tax as I don’t believe people should be paying more when the country is still in a terrible state of flux financially.
“But the council has ignored all the recommendations made by the Labour group. When push comes to shove, the council has shown it does not believe children’s centres should be adequately funded, which is very worrying.
“In refusing to reassess part-night lighting, the council has ignored the recommendations of its own scrutiny committee, which met last year, and are ignoring the wishes of those residents who are scared to leave their homes at night because the streets are pitch dark.
“They also refused the 20mph speed limit, which was sensible and would improve people’s safety.
“The Conservatives claim to represent the needs and wishes of ordinary people but they have passed a budget that is not one for children, the elderly or the young.”
Lib Dem county spokesman for resources Cllr Paul Zukowskyj said his party’s budget allowed harmful cuts to be stopped by reducing non-essential services such a press and publicity.
The Hatfield South representative said: “Our budget had been costed and checked by officers, was financially sound and also froze the council tax, while making use of some unexpected underspends the council has.
"We wanted to support local residents’ real needs. Our roads are atrocious, cuts to public footpaths will make them worse, loss of bus services will make it even more difficult for people to get jobs, and our young people desperately need help into jobs through apprenticeships.
"Our budget would have delivered all of these."