Use £100m reserves to reduce County Hall cuts, say Leicestershire Liberal Democrat group
Some of County Hall's millions of pound of reserves should be used to ease the pain of planned cuts to jobs and services, opposition councillors say.
Leicestershire County Council's Liberal Democrat group said the Conservative administration was wrong to be holding £100 million in its accounts while embarking upon a scheme to save £79 million over the next four years.
Last week, the Tories outlined their budget for the next financial year and warned cuts in Government grants would lead to all services being reviewed for savings.
They warned 1,100 council posts could be axed to help balance the books and that council tax would have to rise by 1.5 per cent from April 2014.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
However, the Conservatives said they still did not know where £30 million of the £79 million would be saved.
Liberal Democrat group leader Simon Galton said: "The Conservatives are talking about massive savings but every year they are building up the sum that sits in the bank accounts.
"Three or four years ago the reserves were £50 million. Now they are double that and that has happened in what has already been a period of substantial cuts.
"We appreciate the need for reserves but we think the level should be set at £60 million or £70 million.
"We are not suggesting a spending spree but the money should be spent carefully to ease the pain of the cuts that are going to come."
Councillor Galton also urged the Tories to identify where the unknown £30 million would be cut before the county council elections in May.
He said: "Those cuts will happen within the term of the next council so people have a right to know what they will be when choosing a council.
"The fear is that a lot of the bad news is being kept back until after the election."
Conservative deputy council leader Byron Rhodes said anyone who advocated the spending of the reserves now did not understand local government finance.
He said: "The level of reserves build in what we have been told we need by our accountants.
"It is committed for things we know we will need money for down the line."
He said it included £23 million set aside to pay for staff redundancy costs.
Coun Rhodes also said it would take time to establish where the additional £30 million of savings would be found.
He said: "We do have some time because these savings are in years three and four of the plan we have now.
"We cannot rush these very important decisions and we have to consult with the public."
County Hall Labour group leader Max Hunt said: "The fact we are facing years of cuts has demonstrated that George Osborne's plans for the economy have not worked.
"We will be working to steer the Tories away from making cuts that will affect the most vulnerable people in the county – young and old.
A consultation on the Conservatives' budget proposals runs until January 27.
The results will be considered by the cabinet on February 6 before a final decision is made by the full council on February 20.