‘Politics at its worst’

Councillor Douglas McCall, Lib Dem group leader
Councillor Douglas McCall, Lib Dem group leader

A crunch council meeting to vote on a £200million budget has been described as “politics at its worst”.

On Wednesday, MK councillors met to vote through £22million ‘worth’ of cuts to be made this year - but the evening was spent shifting blame.

As the Tories ignored heckles that blamed cuts on a Conservative government, the leader of the Labour-led council cried “this is not my budget”.

But it was the Lib Dem Party’s pre-meeting negotiations that pushed Labour to accept their demands - by promising to pass the budget by one vote.

This included no new charges for residents of council sheltered accommodation, following a Citizen campaign to save the warden service.

Green waste collections are to remain free of charge, while children’s play areas have been saved.

When told his party had been described as Labour’s “faithful little puppy” by a Citizen reader, group leader Douglas McCall said he believed it was the other way around.

“We fought very hard to make major changes to the budget,” he told the Citizen today.

“We had it out with Labour and told them we would not support the budget as it was.”

All but one of the Lib Dems abstained from voting the budget through, moments after their ammendments were agreed.

This meant the budget was narrowly passed with 22 votes in favour, 21 against and 11 abstentions.

Mr McCall added: “Legally, the council has to pass a budget and the ammendment improved the budget enough for us to abstain.

“But we still do not like the idea of £22million ‘worth’ of cuts, so we could not vote in favour of it.”

Conservative group leader Councillor Edith Bald accused the two parties of a “stich-up” after her ammendments were shot down by Labour.

She warned it was a sign of things to come as they look ahead to the May election.

“This was politics at its worst.

“The council’s finances are in the red under Labour, as has been the case for two years, while the last Lib Dem administration tried to close nurseries and libraries.

“What a combination this would be. I fear for MK if this happened.”

But council leader Pete Marland simply said the Lib Dems had the better ideas - despite claims of backroom deals.

He said: “I want to do what is right for people in MK and if that means working with other parties then so be it.

“The Lib Dems’ ammendment had real meat on the bone, whereas the Tories’ was just pure politics.”