Gloucestershire County Council agrees next budget, new cash for road repairs and adoption unveiled
SHIRE Hall bosses have agreed Gloucestershire's next budget.
Councillors met in Gloucester today for a meeting punctuated by heated exchanges but headlined by new investment plans – described by opposition councillors as 'election sweeteners'.
Leader of the County Council, Conservative Councillor Mark Hawthorne, unveiled plans to splash out £3million from underspends on additional road repairs and to move £1million from reserves to promote adoption in Gloucestershire.
The new measures form part of an overall budget in which the authority has had to make do with a smaller cheque from central government while also trying to meet the needs of an ageing population.
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Reductions in funding from Westminster mean the council's budget has shrunk by 3.6 per cent from £425million in 2012/13 to £409million for 2013/14.
And only services which support vulnerable people have not felt the sting of cuts, with savings being made in the county's fire and rescue service as well as by the authority walking away from a contract to provide additional police officers in Gloucestershire.
Mr Hawthorne said the budget, which sees council tax levels frozen for the third year in a row, will help create a 'sustainable future for the county'.
He said: "It would have been tempting to pass on our challenge to taxpayers but when hard working families have to make tough decisions themselves, or take pay cuts to keep their jobs, it would be wrong to raise council tax.
"It would have been wrong to have taken money out of residents' pockets and from businesses."
On the plans to promote adoption in the county Mr Hawthorne added: "We need to do all we can to help these children find the loving homes that they so desperately need.
"This is a budget on the side of the most vulnerable. This is a budget on the side of Gloucestershire."
Liberal Democrat members had put forward their own set of amendments to be added to the budget but their push was rejected by the Conservative majority.
They had set out plans to spend an extra £6.8million taken from the council's reserves to spend mainly on road repairs as well as youth projects and green energy schemes.
Councillor Dennis Andrewartha (LD, Cam and Dursley) said: "All good councils should be considering the merits of temporarily dipping in to the money they have set aside to deal with immediate financial challenges."
However, the Lib Dem proposals were slammed by Mr Hawthorne as a 'last minute smash and grab on the reserves'.