When times are good and there is plenty of money around for interesting causes and projects, people would find it hard to understand if one charity for example benefitted at the expense of everything else. When times are hard the same applies and pain has to be fairly spread. I voted to support the Budget at Babergh yesterday because I felt that necessary cuts and increases in charges had been reasonably fairly distributed and that no one section of the community was being asked to sacrifice too much.
The 2010/2011 Budget was passed yesterday by 25 votes to 9. As expected, most of those who voted against the package of measures did so because they objected to the imposition of long term car parking charges in Sudbury and Hadleigh. In my opinion the car parking issue has unfairly overshadowed many other cuts that will cause pain to people in the community. For example many charities have lost grants and all will be paying higher business rates. We also should not forget staff at Babergh, some of who are now facing redundancy and many others who will see their remuneration fall by up to 4%.
I did speak in the debate, but said little about car parking charges, although I welcomed the move to see if something can be done to help workers in the town, many of whom are only paid the minimum wage. I did call for the Council to take time in the months ahead to re-examine its priorities in the light of the changed environment in which we find ourselves. I may find it more difficult to vote for the budget next year if I feel that we have not carefully and critically looked at everything that is a ‘nice to do’ rather than a statutory obligation.
Council tax is set to increase by 3%, which was once again below inflation. Babergh remains the second cheapest district council (in respect of council tax) in Suffolk.