Milton Keynes budget special: threat to funding and services

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More than 120 groups – including cubs, brownies and scouts – could be left struggling due to a “devious” council cut back.

Around £80,000 worth of grants to help community groups rent premises are set to be chopped.

The resolution was made by a sole Labour councillor, Liz Gifford, under her delegated decisions power.

Tory councillor Peter Geary has slammed the process as unfair and a disgrace.

“We as fellow councillors didn’t realise what was happening, let alone all these worthy community groups who will now be made to suffer,” he said.

Mr Geary says the budget item was renamed from ‘wider us grants’ and confused councillors.

“It will affect thousands of people. I am demanding the item be reinistated this week for full and proper debate so we have a chance to get these grants back to the excellent organisations that need them.”

Some 127 community groups will be affected if the cut goes ahead.

They range from brownies and cubs to OAP activity groups, medical support groups and youth clubs.

And they each received a few hundred pounds a year from the council to help towards the hire of their meeting places.

District scouting commissioner Stuart Bailey said: We appreciate that Milton Keynes Council face tough financial decisions but feel disappointed that there is suddenly no funding available . We hope that the councillors will look again at this issue.

In addition, Conservative councillors are opposing the withdrawal of funding to winter gritting, landscape services and hope the council will reconsider the CMK permit charge increases.

The draft budget proposes that the grit bins across MK will no longer be filled by the council in a bid to save £10,000 annually.

Tory leader councillor Edith Bald said this was a ‘dangerous decision’ that could impact on everyone in Milton Keynes.

The Conservative party also opposed the withdrawal of some landscaping services to cut hedges and long grass in public places.

As a result of feedback from parish councillors, the proposal now delays the introduction to withdraw grass cutting and trimming to ‘reduce the initial impact’ and allow parishes to plan for the reduction.

As a result, councillor Maggie Geaney has asked the council to remove the savings proposal from the budget completely.

However, the council defended the proposal, saying: “Where a pathway or access is blocked, the solution will be to remove the barrier rather than continue landscaping.”

They argue accessibility would not be compromised if these cuts were to go ahead.

Councillors John Bint and Keith McLean are hoping that the CMK parking permit price hike will also be re-considered after councillor Gifford increased a number of the permits in a previous delegated decisions meeting.

The Tory councillors asked that the charge increases be ‘phased in’ over a four-year period.

Councillor Bint said: “This is important so that they (the permits) are more affordable for low income employees and align more closely to the council’s policy to encourage use of low emissions vehicles.”

Defending the budget, leader of the council, Pete Marland, said: “The reality of the cuts we face is we are having to make very unpleasant decisions and they are only getting harder.”

Councillor Bald added: “If the leader could put as much energy into managing the council as blaming Westminster, then possibly the council would be in a much better position today.”