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Wokingham Lib Dems Vote Against Tory Budget

Angry Wokingham Liberal Democrats voted against the Tory budget at last Thursday’s Council meeting at Wokingham Borough Council.

Councillor Prue Bray (Leader of the Lib Dem Councillor Group and councillor for Winnersh ward) said, “The Tories are finally reaping what they have sown in the previous six years. They failed year on year to manage the council’s finances and it’s finally caught up with them.

“The Council Tax increase of 4.79% is one of the highest increases in the country, and comes at a time when residents are fearful of losing their jobs and their homes because of the recession.

“On top of that, the Tories have started charging for things that were previously free, such as cycling training for schoolchildren, and have hiked up other charges, such as increasing the cost of burials from £279 to a whopping £646. Fleecing the bereaved is not the way to run the council’s finances.

“Worst of all, although the Tories were well aware that the safety of our vulnerable children was at risk, they chose to pour £2 million into a call centre whilst cutting the budget for Children’s Services. The Lib Dems have finally managed to uncover the fact that the Tories knew 18 months ago that they were failing to adequately protect our children. I am outraged that they ignored the pleas of council officers to keep our children safe. They must never allow such a thing to happen again.

“The Leader of the Council pledged to make vulnerable children and elderly people his priority, but one of his first acts has been to cut travel tokens, and people between the ages of 60 and 69 who previously had tokens will no longer receive them. This will hit some of the most vulnerable people in the Borough, especially those on low incomes and in areas with poor or non-existent bus services.

“All in all, this is a mean-spirited budget that will hit the worst off in the Borough.”

Extracts from Lib Dem speeches at the Budget meeting last Thursday (19th Feb):

BETH ROWLAND (Spokesperson for Children’s Services and Councillor for South Lake ward):
“The backlog of repairs for our secondary schools currently stands at over £20 million. Yet the Conservative Executive has cut this budget by 40%. The Tories are promising to rebuild our secondary schools and, indeed Waingels College rebuild has started. But the next school to be rebuilt won’t start for at least another 3 years, and that relies on the Government agreeing to fund it. Our schools have got to last a lot longer, but reducing the maintenance budget is not going to stop the rot.”

JENNY LISSAMAN (Spokesperson for Highways and Environment, and Councillor for Bulmershe & Whitegates ward):
“Wokingham Tories have

reduced the highways maintenance budget to cater for ‘essential works only’,
reduced the budget for carriageways from £1.5 million to £1 million,
axed the budget for pavements completely,
axed the budget for highways drainage,
reduced the safety and traffic management budget from £300,000 to £200,000. and
scrapped the much heralded funding for the M4 noise barrier.
If I had to single out one cut as being particularly shortsighted it would be the cut in highways drainage schemes. We all saw the flooding last week. The Conservatives have got almost nowhere in protecting people from flooding since July 2007. I suppose we will just have to cross our fingers and hope the rain holds off for the next couple of years.”

PHIL CHALLIS (Spokesperson for Housing, and Councillor for Loddon ward):
“I am shocked to see that the Tories will fail to meet the target to bring all the council’s houses up to the Decent Homes standard by 2010. Last July the Executive told me they remained confident that this target would be met, but they have failed. Imagine how the council’s tenants in substandard houses feel – they now have no idea if or when they will be brought up to a decent standard.”

MALCOLM ARMSTRONG (Councillor for Winnersh ward):
“The Tories have got their priorities wrong. At a time when residents are struggling to cope and when every penny counts, the Lib Dems have discovered that the Tory administration has spent £32,330 on tea, coffee and sandwiches this past year. That would pay the salary of an extra social worker in Children’s Services. The Tory mayor is also planning a lavish party for councillors from the Borough, town and parishes, costing a whopping £3,000. This would pay for more than a thousand meals on wheels for some of our most vulnerable residents. It’s time the Tories got their priorities right and stopped wasting taxpayers’ money.”

Woodley Town Council sets 2009/10 Precept

On Tuesday night Liberal Democrat controlled Woodley Town Council set an increase in the precept of 3.5% for a band D council tax payer. The increase amounts to 7 pence a week for a band D household.

Following the meeting Beth Rowland, Lib Dem Leader of the council said “I am very pleased that we have managed to keep the increase to inflation only and that we can continue to provide the full range of important facilities and services in Woodley. Last year was very difficult for everyone with the massive increases in energy costs; the council was hit particularly hard by this. The 2009/10 precept, at a 3.5% increase, reflects the careful financial management by the lib Dem administration of the Town Council. Woodley Town Council provides far more for its residents than any other town or parish council in the borough.”

Coling Lawley Deputy leader said “We are committed to providing the services for Woodley that Tory controlled Wokingham Borough will not” he went on to explain “It is quite clear that the Tories do not provide a fair share of borough funded leisure services in Woodley. Without the town council stepping in there would be no leisure services in Woodley.”

Phil Challis Lib Dem town councilor said “I am proud to be part of a Lib Dem administration which believes in providing leisure facilities for residents of all ages. We provide an amazing range of facilities for around £2 per week per household (Band D). At last night’s meeting the Tory group said that all operations should break even, but refused to say how they would achieve this. However the Tory record at Wokingham Borough is one of cutting services, making people redundant and rising charges.”

Beth Rowland said “As well as providing leisure facilities and community halls, Woodley Town Council provides funding for important services such as Readibus, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Youth outreach services through Just Around the Corner (JAC) as well as a police office and job support centre. I want the Tories to come clean and tell the residents of Woodley just which staff and services they would cut”.

Ray Duncan, Liberal Democrat Town Councilor said “Woodley has a great sense of community and I think this is related to the commitment the Lib Dems have made to providing leisure facilities in Woodley. I dread to think what would happen to our community if the Tories ever gained control of the council and cut services in the same way that they continue to do in Wokingham Borough”.

Tory Changes To Travel Tokens Will Hit The Most Vulnerable Say Lib Dems

The Tory Executive of Wokingham Borough Council last night voted to take travel tokens away from elderly people under 70 years of age. Only people over 70 years of age and disabled people over the age of 16 can now apply for free travel tokens, currently amounting to £40 worth of tokens, plus a further £40 worth for (means tested) people on the lowest incomes.

Councillor Prue Bray (Leader of the Wokingham Lib Dem Councillor Group and councillor for Winnersh ward) said, “This change to the concessionary fares scheme will hit some of the most vulnerable people in the borough. Tokens will be denied to pensioners who are on the lowest incomes, and will especially hit those pensioners who currently receive the extra means related tokens.

“The Tories say that the Government free bus pass is better value for pensioners, and that the travel tokens are no longer needed, but try telling that to those pensioners who live in areas of the borough that don’t have any bus service. Travel tokens were a godsend to these people and to many elderly people who are unable to travel by bus.

“The Liberal Democrats are pleased that the Leader of the Council has stated that the vulnerable elderly and children are now his priorities, but if he really means what he says, why is he taking travel tokens away? Removing the tokens from people under 70 is going to hit the less well off and those in areas with no buses especially hard – and these are some of the very people he says are his priority.”

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Published by Woodley & Whitegates Liberal Democrats, 26 Farriers Close Woodley, Reading RG5 3DD.

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