Burnley Conservatives accused of 'reckless and illegal act' over Budget refusal

Burnley's Conservative Group has been accused of a "reckless and illegal act" by deciding not to put a Budget proposal forward for the coming year.

Members of Burnley Borough Council met last night to discuss the council's spending plans for the coming year, including voting on council tax increases and other financial matters.

The ruling Labour group's proposal to increase council tax by 1.99% was voted through, but was not backed by the Tories who failed to offer any alternative.

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The Tories' refusal to do was slammed by the Labour Mayor of Burnley, Coun. Mark Townsend who accused them of hypocrisy.

Members of Burnley Borough Council met last night to discuss the council's spending plans for the coming year, including voting on council tax increases and other financial matters

He said: "In a reckless act this evening the Conservative Group on Burnley Council voted to set no budget for 2022/23 which is illegal. If they had been successful it would have created chaos for local services such as waste collection and parks.

"Common sense prevailed with the other parties setting a budget that required a council tax increase of £6.21 for a Band D property (1.99%).This is half the % increase set by the Conservative Group at LCC who increased their Council Tax by £58.10 (3.99%).

"As Conservatives tried desperately to find reasons for their incoherent position through a number of interventions, one even put forward that Burnley Council should hold a referendum. No mention that holding a referendum would cost the council over £60,000.

"Also, no mention of them holding a referendum for breaking their tax pledge with a National Insurance tax hike, the breaking of the pensions triple lock pledge or scrapping VAT on energy bills. Tory hypocisy!"

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A statement said: "With people’s pockets already being squeezed we couldn’t agree to a council tax increase at Burnley Borough Council.

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"Looking through the budget, the other parties proposed spending £45,000 on a climate change officer role, £72,000 on carbon literacy training for staff and a whole host of other wasteful projects.

"The borough has seen its core funding from government increase, has managed to hold significant reserves throughout Covid-19 and has even been able to purchase Charter Walk on top of funding the escalating repair cost of the town hall.

"To then come back to residents and increase council tax by the maximum amount allowed before triggering a local referendum is unacceptable and is why every Conservative on the council voted against this council tax rise."

The council tax increase was supported by Labour, Liberal Democrat, BPIP and Greens councillors, with an amendment brought by the Green Party to spend an extra £15,000 on 30 new allotments added in on the night.

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Council leader, Labour's Coun. Afrasiab Anwar, said: "During Covid we have been able to offer some council tax relief to those in work but on low pay, there is no guarantee we will be able to do this in future because of the uncertainties over funding.

"We are currently receiving one-year settlements with no indications of future funding. The council has been waiting since 2017 for the Government to produce it’s Fair Funding Review and have no knowledge of current government thinking on funding for local authorities.

"Despite the challenges, it was good to see support from other groups for the proposals and we welcomed the friendly amendments brought by the Green group which highlights a willingness to work together to provide the best for our residents.

"As ever the Conservative group chose to play political games and complain about everything and anything yet offer no alternatives. Strangely declaring that it is not the 'right time' to tackle climate change and referring to it as a 'fantasy item', proving just how out of touch they are."