Despite attempts from Labour who voted against and Liberal Democrats who abstained, the Council successfully passed the Budget for the next two years by a margin of 28-22.
Out of the major three parties, only the Conservatives acted responsibly, facing up to their legal responsibility as elected members to pass a balanced budget. Failure to do so can result in commissioners from London with no local knowledge being imposed on Bolton to take decisions and make cuts to services. This, in our opinion, would be a dereliction of duty to not pass a budget under these circumstances.
Neither Labour or the Liberal Democrats offered an alternative budget, the first time we can remember a major opposition party in this borough not doing, a clear dereliction of duty.
Neither did Labour MPs in Parliament object to the Local Government Settlement, which Labour politicians locally were against.
The savings that required to be made are £2.3m fewer than initially expected last November, because of the impact of a public sector pay freeze, together with a slightly improved Collection Fund deficit in 20/21. It also agreed savings of £37.2m for 2021-3 with £32.3m in 2021/22 and £4.9m in 2022/23.
The council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday 8 had put forward recommendations for how this extra £2.3m would be used. It means that the council has been able to reduce the increase in the Council Tax and also reduce the savings required for some services.
Leader of the Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh, said:
I am pleased that the Full Council has agreed the Cabinet plans for the budget. As a Cabinet we proposed to reduce the council tax rise needed to 3.8% and use the extra £2.3m we have available to protect vital services.
We are protecting school crossing patrols, making sure that bin and litter collection services are not affected further, making sure the Albert Halls continues as a live venue, and reducing the impact of savings on other services to our most vulnerable.
The past year has challenged the council’s finances like no other, but I’m pleased that we will receive an extra £9m to cover costs of the Covid pandemic in the coming year. This is on top of the £26m the council received in emergency payments in 2020 to meet the costs of dealing with the virus.
Despite the tough pressures that we face this is a balanced budget with a reduced savings target than our proposals published in November.
We don’t take the decisions lightly and started from a premise that we would like any council tax increases to be less, but we have to be realistic.
We have listened to people’s concerns during the consultation and removed savings requirements that were causing real concern with people.
You can watch Cllr David Greenhalgh's full speech online by clicking here.
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