Budget decision comes at a price

Cllr Sam Crooks ponders the budget - it was passed last night (Tuesday)
Cllr Sam Crooks ponders the budget - it was passed last night (Tuesday)

PROTESTERS packed the civic offices for a marathon eight-hour session on Tuesday night to debate £27million worth of budget cuts.

Full council debated long into the night amid angry demonstrations and heckling from members of the Coalition of Resistance and the public.

The full budget will see the authority aiming to save £71 million over the next four years – or 34 per cent of its net revenue budget.

It was not finally passed until 3am – and even then only after a number of amendments were debated.

Deputy leader of the council, Councillor Sam Crooks, stated this was ‘the most important financial meeting’ the council had been involved in.

He said he and members of all parties had worked hard to make cuts with as little impact to services as possible.

Councillors suggested that savings could be found by turning off all street lighting on grid roads leading up to roundabouts, as well as the closure and merger of some nurseries and the cutting of 299 council jobs.

But a proposal to remove funds allocated to the controversial Fenny Lock traveller site, which will cost the council £1.281million, was rejected.

There was good news for some city projects as councillors voted for the amendment to see Milton Keynes City Orchestra awarded an extra £3,116.

However, backbencher Councillor Douglas McCall shot himself in the foot by suggesting the amendment should not have been carried because the orchestra was for “affluent people who could afford to pay for tickets themselves”.

Anita de Klerk, chairman of the Milton Keynes Coalition of Resistance, addressed the council directly when she said: “The council has been ordered by the government to make cuts of 34 per cent. Will the councillors and the chief executive be taking pay cuts of 34 per cent? We refuse to support the closure of services. The council should stand with us or stand down.”

Mr Crooks added: “I’m very gratified that at the end of the day the sum total of all the changes that the opposition wish to make is an enhancement of less than £1 million to the revenue budget and an amendment to a single project in the capital programme.

“I know that’s not a vote of confidence – but I do genuinely appreciate the recognition there has been on all sides of the Chamber of the magnitude of the task that we have had to face this year – and which still lies before us.”

> More on the cuts - pages 6 and 7