Agenda item

Budget 2020/21 and Medium Term Financial Strategy Update

To consider and, if thought fit, to approve the recommendations set out in the associated report.

Minutes:

Councillor Dawlings moved, and Councillor McDermott seconded, the recommendations set out in the report.

 

Mr James Tansley had registered to speak, which included the following comments:

·         By any standards the council's performance in the last year had been dismal. It had wasted nearly £11m on the Calverley Sq. project. It had introduced a new waste collection scheme which provided a worse service at a higher cost than the one it replaced.  Its disruptive, costly and unnecessary civic space project had damaged hard-pressed businesses in Monson Rd, and it had imposed inflation busting increases in charges for virtually every service it provided.

·         The Council has lost the trust of residents who resented the lack of transparency at the way it spent their money.

·         The draft budget contained a lot of irrelevant detail, dubious statistics and meaningless comparisons.  It further sought to increase the amount of tax it received by close on twice the rate of inflation.

·         The Tunbridge Wells tax-payer was being asked to pay more for worse services. Councillors were not undertaking proper scrutiny and challenge on Council expenditure.  The draft budget should be thrown out.

 

Ms Anne Musker had registered to speak, which included the following comments:

·         1 in 10 people had a physical disability. In addition, there were those with physical restrictions due to broken legs, hip and knee replacements and other associated issues.  All were served by Shopmobility.

·         Wheelchairs were not automatically allocated, sometimes taking months to be assigned.  In addition, users had to be unable to use a manual wheelchair in order to be given a powered wheelchair. 

·         Powered wheelchairs offered independence.

·         Shopmobility benefited from an enormous amount of volunteer time, including free accountancy and admin.

·         Shopmobility scooters could be used across Tunbridge Wells and not just in the RVP.  Demand for scooters was close to 1,000 per year.

·         The amount of money offered was not sufficient to sustain Shopmobility – something that TWBC should have been aware of through consultation with Shopmobility, its users and from TWBC’s own Equality Impact Survey. 

·         This budget should be should now be referred back to Committee to identify both emergency and long-term funding to ensure that injured, sick and disabled people were able to continue to make use of this valuable resource.

 

Ms Caroline Riddle, Chair of Tunbridge Wells Shopmobility, had registered to speak, which included the following comments:

·         The decision to close Shopmobility was not taken lightly.

·         The wheelchairs and scooters all belonged to Shopmobility and would now be sold.

·         Shopmobility was a charity with a number of Trustees.  Except for one member of staff who is required by the insurers to be paid, all those who work for Shopmobility were volunteers.

·         For many years Shopmobility felt wanted and supported by TWBC and was able to operate 9-5pm Monday to Saturday. This was no longer case with the grant being cut by £1-2k each year – this was now causing financial difficulties. Cash reserves were being used to pay the bills.

·         The last grant was for £10,000. This required a change in opening hours to 10-4:30pm Tuesday to Saturday. Options had now run out and Shopmobility would close on 31 March 2020.

·         It was hoped that there were sufficient funds available to pay the outstanding costs.

·         Applications had been made but no funding had been offered from any other organisation.

 

Debate on the motion included the following comments:

·         The Liberal Democrats would support the budget and welcomed the inclusion of funding for the Amelia Scott, investment for the Assembly Hall Theatre and the allocation of funding for the urgent attention that was needed for the existing Civic buildings.

·         A cultural change was required to how the Council dealt and engaged with residents.  Mechanisms to take this forward were also included in the budget.

·         Money to improve grass routes football facilities was also welcomed.

·         There was a need to provide a service such as Shopmobility and there was a request that provision should be reconsidered.

·         Although told that austerity was over, many residents were still struggling to make ends meet.  Government promised much but had delivered little – residents paid more but received less.

·         The effects of Brexit uncertainty remained. Many grants given to organisations such as Age UK had been cut. As a result services were struggling.

·         The budget consultation received 199 responses. Of those responses Housing and Homelessness were top of the agenda.

·         More housing, particularly Social Housing needed to be built. The Council needed to find more ways to build more houses to reduce the number of people on the housing waiting list.

·         Very little was included on Climate Emergency, air quality and traffic congestion.

·         Labour welcomed and supported the Amelia Scott but could not support the budget as a whole.

·         The job of the Council was to deliver services to local people and deliver them well.

·         Tunbridge Wells Alliance were in support of the budget.

·         It should be recognised that the Council was a very well-run council with a high level of competent and dedicated staff.

·         Kent County Council might be in a position to offer financial assistance to Shopmobility.

·         Any consideration of help to Shopmobility should also include the provision of powered wheelchairs which at present Shopmobility does not offer.

·         Shopmobility did not form part of the Budget. The Community Grants Panel met in January 2019 and put forward its budget to all the relevant organisations including Shopmobility. All reductions were accepted.  Out of those who used the Shopmobility service last year, 486 used manual wheelchairs with 301 using the motorised version. It was not possible to divert funds from other organisations to Shopmobility when there were possible alternatives from other sources.

 

In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 15.7, the Mayor took a recorded vote on the motion.

 

Members who voted in favour of the motion: The Mayor Councillor Scholes, The Deputy Mayor Councillor Podbury, Councillors Atkins, Atwood, Backhouse, Bailey, Barrington-King, Bland, Chapelard, Mrs Cobbold, Dawlings, Ellis, Fairweather, Funnell, Hamilton, Hayward, Hickey, Holden, Mackonochie, March, McDermott,  Morton,  Poile,  Pope,  Rands,  Reilly, Rutland, Scott, Simmons, Soyke, Stanyer, Thomson, Warne, Williams and Woodward. (35)

 

Members who voted against the motion: Councillors Everitt, Hill, Lewis, Neve and Pound. (5)

 

Members who abstained from voting: Councillor Bruneau. (1)

 

RESOLVED –

 

1.    That the changes to the base budget along with the assumptions and approach set out throughout the report be noted;

 

2.    That the responses to the budget consultation set out at Appendix P to the report be noted;

 

3.    That the rolling forward of the capital programme, including additional gross funding of £3,072,050 for new schemes listed within the report, be approved;

 

4.    That the 2020/21 Pay Policy Statement, set out at Appendix Q to the report, be approved; and

 

5.    That an increase in the ‘Basic Amount’ of Council Tax of £5.00 per annum for a Band D property be approved.

Supporting documents:

 

A - Z of council services