Slow hand clap and ‘shame on you’ cries greet council budget

PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 February 2014 | UPDATED: 22:25 05 February 2014

Welwyn Garden City Trades Council

Welwyn Garden City Trades Council

Archant

Cries of “shame on you” and a slow hand clap greeted the approval of Welwyn Hatfield Council’s budget.

"No doubt the addition of new cinemas at Campus West and leisure facilities in Stanborough Park will be welcomed by residents, as were the distractions of the orchestra and ballroom on the Titanic"

Lib Dem Councillor Tony Skottowe

Hard-left protestors heckled Conservative councillors from the public gallery and picketed outside Welwyn Garden City’s Monday meeting, enraged by an average 7.22 per cent council rent hike.

Members of the St Albans, Welwyn & Hatfield Trades Union Council were joined in opposition by the Labour and Lib Dem parties.

The politicians could speak in the meeting, and attacked the Conservative administration.

Hollybush Labour councillor Lynn Chesterman said: “If we were talking about a seven per cent increase in mortgage payments, we would all be queuing up down the railroad to sit on the tracks.

Councillor Alan Franey was instrumental in setting the budgetCouncillor Alan Franey was instrumental in setting the budget

“We shouldn’t be pleased that those who earn the least are going to pay the most.”

The rent increase was defended by finance chief Cllr Alan Franey as a Government-led reform, which he said would “converge” fees housing associations charge.

Lib Dem group leader Tony Skottowe was unimpressed with capital spending and the financial plan, which he labelled “a sticking plaster and bandages budget”.

“No doubt the addition of new cinemas at Campus West and leisure facilities in Stanborough Park will be welcomed by residents, as were the distractions of the orchestra and ballroom on the Titanic,” he said.

"If we were talking about a seven per cent increase in mortgage payments, we would all be queuing up down the railroad to sit on the tracks."

Labour councillor Lynn Chesterman

“Sadly neither did nor will keep the ship afloat in Welwyn Hatfield.”

Council tax was again frozen for the fifth successive year, but £1m was drawn from reserves to help bridge a shortfall in Government funding.

This year the budget is 1.3 per cent lower than 2012/13, and the authority has lost £5.6m in Government grant.

To help bridge the gap, £1m will be drawn from reserves, in a bid to safeguard residents from “price rises on fees and charges and loss of service”.

But the authority may need to save another £2.1m over the next three years.

Cllr Franey admitted “the challenges we face are without question becoming more difficult”.

He said: “While the economy is on the up, local government funding is on the down. Welfare reforms are hovering. There will be an election and a new spending review to look forward to.

“So as we look to the future we know that we face not only significant financial pressures but also significant service challenges.”


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