Parties scrap over how £30k is spent as part of Preston's budget proposals

Changes put forward from Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to amend the ruling Labour group’s Budget proposals for Preston were shot down.

Friday, 28th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 28th February 2020, 1:31 pm
Preston City Council's budget meeting 2020

And Labour councillors at Preston City Council (PCC) also said they were “disappointed” that they didn’t have better opposition to scrutinise their ideas.

Budget plans for Preston, which include a 1.99 per cent increase for its share of the Council Tax and a one-off £30k contribution to the Preston Model in 2020/21, were passed with only members of the Labour group voting to back proposals.

Kicking off the debate coun Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources and performance, presented proposals which he had previously called a “steady as we go” budget.

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“Preston is finally punching above its weight and becoming a city,” he said.

“The Preston Model is a massive part of what we are doing.

“When we look at the whole picture it’s incredible what’s happened in the last year.”

Coun Rawlinson drew on the city’s successes including being chosen to host a Rugby League World Cup 2021 team and launching a regional cooperative bank.

But he also said there were “no easy answers” when it came to the Guild Hall and cited changes expected to the Government income stream as a financial risk.

Putting forward an amendment to the proposals Conservative coun Ron Woollam said the budget from the Labour group “lacked any real innovation for businesses” and called for the £30,000 to be invested into keeping Preston’s streets clean and removing fly tipping instead of the Preston Model.

He also told members the Conservative group wanted to see £60k allocated to providing free and reduced parking charges in the city to stimulate footfall and kick start the local economy, which he said "is one of the areas that residents tell us is important to them".

He added: “There’s no real incentive to come into the city with the litter and fly tipping. It’s discouraging footfall at a time when it’s most needed.”

Questioning the benefits of the Preston Model he said: “You say that 10s of billions of pounds have been put into the Preston area.

“Can you substantiate that? Where do the figures come from?”

But the amendment was laughed at by the Labour and Liberal Democrat group alike.

Lib Dem leader John Potter called it a “tiny nothing sort of document” while others labelled it “nonsense”.

However the Liberal Democrat amendments for £35,000 to be put towards a climate action fund and to reduce the garden waste collection charge, among others were also ridiculed.

Both Conservative and Labour politicians likened the suggested changes presented by coun Potter to a “party-political broadcast”.

Conservative coun Sue Whittam told members money would be put towards tackling climate change anyway in the future once a special task and finish group looking into the issue came up with recommendations.

And coun Matthew Brown said the amendments had “presentation and gloss” but were “pretty useless” while coun Rawlinson said they should be “ripped up”.

Addressing the chamber after the Liberal Democrat’s amendment to the budget proposals had been laid out on Thursday coun Jennifer Mein said: “It’s so poor and so weak it’s so expected and not a strong opposition.

“You are not stepping up to the mark.”

Earlier in the meeting, coun Lynne Brooks had shared a similar sentiment when she commented on the amendment to the Conservative amendments to the budget proposals.

“We don’t just want to be on one side,” she said. “We want to listen to what people’s ideas are.”

Referring to the document outlining the amendments she added: “There’s nothing going on here. I’m just disappointed.”

The Labour group’s budget proposals were voted through by 27 to 14.