by Anood Al-Samerai on 3 March, 2014
Last week saw the Liberal Democrats put forwards our manifesto and opposition budget.
At all our council meetings, whether it has been the green theme, older people or businesses, time and time again Liberal Democrats show that we are the ones with new and radical ideas for the future of this borough.
The budget meeting was a chance for us to show how we cost our ideas with confirmation from the finance director which makes our manifesto ‘legal, balanced and implementable.’
Labour just looked petty and out of touch. All they could do was snipe at Simon Hughes, say things couldn’t be done or make desperate attempts to divide the local community.
But Southwark can be a council which is on the side of residents. The theory behind the Lib Dem budget is simple. Homes, kids, jobs and a council tax cut. It’s about prioritising the things which matter to local residents and wrapping them up in a more efficient council which gets real value for money and which allows residents control over decisions and funding.
Housing is the no. 1 issue at my advice surgeries and Labour has failed miserably. They lowered the threshold of the value at which council homes are sold off to £300,000. This means that council homes worth more than this are sold and this, of course, applies to family sized homes in the north of the borough. Labour also think that it is perfectly acceptable to see huge developments of luxury flats without any single affordable home in them. And their budget cuts back on the planning department which is the very place the council needs to be supporting to make the case for more affordable homes.
It’s all very well Labour promising grand housing numbers at some point in the future. But residents need homes now and the way to do that is to stop selling off council homes; get affordable homes in new developments; and get empty homes back into use.
The next area we focused on is childcare. As Liberals we believe that the state should enable people to take control of their own lives and give them the freedom to achieve their potential. That’s why it’s right that we use council resources to help with free childcare hours. Why have council money sitting in the bank when it could be paying for childcare – helping parents to work or study?
An extra day a month of free childcare for every 2, 3 and 4 year old in the borough is affordable in our budget and would make family budgets far more affordable across the borough.
Liberal Democrats in government have helped to create over a million new jobs as well as one and a half million new apprenticeships. But we can do more here in Southwark by ruthlessly focusing on jobs, apprenticeships and local businesses.
In Lib Dem Eastbourne the Leader of the Council signs up every local business possible to take an apprentice. It’s about working with businesses to help them grow and take apprenticeships as they do. And the Lib Dem Mayor of Bedford has made a real difference to employment there by setting up a Jobs Hub. We would go even further by creating start up space and entrepreneurial advice for new businesses. These ideas in addition to our other proposals about flexible business rates and rents will create 1000 new apprenticeships as well as thriving high streets.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Labour are still so desperate for drinks parties that they are now creating extra council meetings to host them. Labour spend £9.3 million on catering, cabs, communications and other waste. And yet they fail to collect all the council tax which the council is owed.
When Lib Dems ran Southwark Council we increased council tax collection from 80% to 96%. Then we decided to bring council tax collection in house to improve the service. And yet over 2 years after bringing it in house Labour don’t have the ambition to collect any more of it. Even though Swk remains below the London average. If Lib Dem run Kingston can have a collection rate of 99% why is Southwark’s so low? Why are 19 London boroughs collecting more council tax than us?
Liberal Democrats will cut council tax for every Southwark resident. We will pay for it by properly and fairly collecting it. And if we can increase the collection rate by more than 1% then we will pass that straight to local residents by cutting their council tax by even more.
We will also get value for money by letting go of funding to local communities. We could completely turn this council on its head if we properly funded community councils and let them manage their parks and play areas, give them control of their local high streets and business rates and trust the people we represent to make their own decisions.
There is so much in our carefully costed manifesto which is radical, exciting and creative. Labour have been stuck in a petty point scoring match for the last 4 years while Lib Dems get on with what really matters – a vision which cuts council tax and which focuses on homes, kids and jobs.Leave a comment