Bath and North East Somerset Council’s annual budget for 2012 does not adequately plan for the future, the area’s Conservative councillors have warned. This is despite the challenging financial situation facing all local councils in the years ahead.
The council’s budget proposals for the coming financial year do not include a detailed three-year financial plan and does not prepare for savings it will need to find in the next two years. Instead, the Liberal Democrat-run council has produced a budget which details just this year’s spending plans and council tax rates.
As a result of this short-term planning, the Liberal Democrat budget plans include axing the area’s mobile library service, reducing spending on road maintenance and gulley clearing, and cutting spending on residential care for elderly and vulnerable residents.
Conservative councillors in Bath and North East Somerset have criticised this approach, warning that it will store-up more problems for the years ahead. Conservatives have said that at a time of austerity it is more important than ever for local councils to plan ahead and make long-term efficiency savings in order to protect services as far as possible.
Cllr Charles Gerrish, the Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Resources, said:
“This short-term approach to the council’s budget-setting is storing up problems for future years and risks deeper cuts to services than needs be. If the council produced a detailed three-year financial plan it could mitigate the impact on services by allowing the council to better prepare for the savings required in the years ahead. The effects of not doing this are already being seeing in the Lib Dems’ plans to axe mobile libraries and cut back on important services such as drain clearing, road maintenance and residential care.
“There are of course always uncertainties for the council in planning for future years, in terms of Government funding, income, and unexpected expenditures. But this does not mean the council is unable make reasonable assumptions about the years ahead, or prepare itself for known financial pressures.
“When the Lib Dems took over the running of B&NES Council with Labour’s support last year, Conservatives had left a golden legacy of balanced budgets and robust levels of contingencies. This legacy is already being squandered, leaving the council in an even more difficult financial situation than it should be.”