Financial pressures “will get harder, not better”, says Milton Keynes Council leader

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Milton Keynes needs a longer-term fix for its finances becauses the challenges are getting “harder, not better”, says the leader of the council.

In a heated exchange in the chamber last night, Mr Marland made a final plea to fellow councillors to vote in favour of the budget as he endeavours to save £22million this year.

Leader of Milton Keynes Council Pete Marland

Leader of Milton Keynes Council Pete Marland

It was passed with 24 votes for, 11 against and 16 abstentions.

He said: “I fundamentally disagree we are somehow overcooking the challenge to local government. We’re not.

“In Milton Keynes we have such massive demographic pressures.

“We have twice the number of nursery school children than we have in sixth form.

“We have huge pressure on our adult health and social care.

“It’s not just that the budget is going down, it’s that there are more customers coming in the door.”

Councillors had reconvened to continue debates after £2.5million was put back into the budget to save vital public services including bus subsidies, homeless hostels, voluntary organisations and luncheon clubs.

In a desperate bid to stop the government taking control of council finances, Mr Marland negotiated the changes following pressure from both the Lib Dems and Tories.

But tax payers will bear the brunt with a council tax rise of £22 a year.

Mr Marland added: “I will not accept the argument that at the eleventh hour the cavalry rode in and made massive amendments to a budget that was unfixable.

“We have to remember that a bus going towards a cliff, is still a bus going towards a cliff - whether it has got a driver or not.

“All parties have to work together to make sure the cliff gets further and further away.”