Well, at last we all know where the council taxpayers of this town stand after the budget debate. Labour proposed a 1.9% increase in council tax, the maximum possible without receiving penalties, which is above the rate of inflation.
We, the Burnley Conservatives, proposed an amendment of a zero increase in council tax. Liberals did neither and just sat on the fence and abstained from both. When the Liberals were in control of the council, the first year they voted a 4.5% rise in council tax. In Labour’s first budget, last February, having regained council overall majority in May 2013, they the Liberals agreed with the Labour Party motion to increase council tax to the very limit permissable, saying the Labour increased budget proposals were fair.
This year, the Liberals again did not put forward a budget, just saying the motion by the Labour Group to increase council tax was underwhelming. What was that meant to say? The Burnley Conservatives have always put forward a budget, a budget that would see more money left in the council tax payers’ pockets, where it belongs and this year we put forward a zero rate increase. Of course, this was voted against by the Labour councillors, as one would expect, and the Liberals supported Labour by abstention.
Over the past years, the number of Burnley Council employees has been reduced, a matter of cutting a coat according to cloth, and rightly so. Leading by example, the Conservatives put forward in our budget speech that we would, in the near future, propose a reduction of councillors from three in each ward to two, saving in the region of £45,000 per annum. A vast saving to council tax payers. But support for such a proposition no doubt will be opposed as it would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. This series of events makes me wonder when, after the General Election in May, if there is no overall majority of a political party at Central Government, Conservative or Labour, where will the Liberals be in the Burnley Council chamber, left or right or sat on the fence. We have heard over the years from both Labour and Liberal benches in the council chamber a violent and acrimonious war of words between them, many against constitutional rules, and with total disregard to the chair.
I know smoking in the town hall is banned, but will the smoking pipe of peace be passed round between Labour and Liberal councillors should an alliance between them at Central Government be a consideration, or will each of them have the pipe in one hand and a knife round their backs in the other. Roll on May.
Coun. David Heginbotham