Council leader admits budget was ‘difficult’

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WRITING this year’s budget was no easy feat, according to council leader Andrew Geary.

Councillors will meet tonight (Wednesday) to discuss the 2013/14 financial plan and come to an agreement for the year ahead.

But with a reduction in funding from the government, Mr Geary said it was difficult to find ways to overcome the shortfall, meaning £16.7 million of cuts had to be made.

The council has already voted in favour of increasing council tax from April.

He said: “Make no bones about it, it has been a difficult budget for us to make.

“We have been dealt with big government funding cuts, so we have had to make changes where we felt we could. We don’t want to cut essential services, so we’ve made a budget that best suits the people of Milton Keynes.

“I remember when I first sat on the council and heard the leader saying it was a hard budget because they’d only been given a 3.5 per cent increase in government funding. Well, try doing it with an 8.5 per cent reduction.”

One of the biggest talking points among the political groups is the proposed introduction of a fee of £15 for the council to collect bulky waste, such as sofas and mattresses.

Milton Keynes is currently one of just three council’s in the country not to charge for the removal of bulky waste.

Labour will put forward an amendment at this evening’s meeting proposing the fee be reduced to £10, while the Liberal Democrats will propose the service should remain free.

Councillor Cec Tallack, deputy leader of the Lib Dems, said he expects an increase in fly-tipping should the charges be introduced.

Mr Tallack said: “For the nine years when they ran the council, the Liberal Democrats made sure it was free to encourage people to get their old stuff removed.

“However, the city now potentially faces a huge rise in dumped rubbish. The Conservatives are planning to charge residents to take things away. If this is passed, there is a real risk that rubbish dumping will go way beyond anything we see today. 

“Let’s hope the other parties support the Liberal Democrats and decide not to go ahead with the plan to only remove rubbish from those who pay and leave it lying around if they don’t.”

Other talking points include the reduction in bus subsidies and an increase in car parking charges around thecentre:mk.

Councillor Norman Miles, leader of the Labour group, said: “Labour are putting forward a number of important amendments to a budget that we do not support in the hope of making limiting some of the damage the government and its council bosses are doing to Milton Keynes.”