Labour proposes Council Tax freeze
A Labour motion to freeze Watford's Council tax and cancel a rise in fees was voted down by the Liberal Democrats at the annual budget meeting on 24th January, instead raising the tax by 2%. Labour had proposed the use of the Council's extensive reserves and a cut in the cost of the Mayor's office to balance the budget. Labour Leader, Nigel Bell said, "This tax rise will put unecessary pressure on already suffering residents."
Labour proposes alternative priorities for Watford council budget
"A tired out old Liberal Democrat run Council" - Nigel Bell
Labour proposed a range of amendments to the Liberal Democrat budget at the Watford Council meeting on 27th January 2016. Labour's proposals included
Labour's proposals were voted down by the Liberal Democrats 19 votes to Labour's 13 with the Tories abstaining.
Mayor praises former Labour administration
rAfter years of criticising Labour for decisions it made when running Watford Council between 1972 and 2002, the Mayor finally admitted that Labour councillors had made some very 'wise' decisions when it came to investment in the town.
Labour's Asif Khan (pictured above) pointed out that the £100 million Watford Council property portfolio had largely been purchased during Labour's 30 years. The £6 million in annual income now enjoyed by the Council from these investments had, in the words of Asif Khan, "saved the Council's bacon", enabling it to declare a zero Council Tax increase.
Replying the Mayor agreed with Councillor Khan that there had indeed been some wise decisions made by former Labour councillors with regard to investments, adding that sadly many of them were no longer with us.
Read the true story of Labour's legacy to Watford here.
Watford market traders blamed for their 'failure'
Responding angrily to a question at Council as to why in Christmas week 11 market stalls were shuttered and closed, the Liberal Democrat Mayor reacted by blaming the traders themselves for their 'failure'.
Refusing to accept any responsibility herself for the disastrous move of the market to the rear of 'Clements', she said, "The problem is that the market is talking itself down. Traders can move out of Watford if they are not happy. I don't see why taxpayers should subsidise their failing businesses."
Read more about Watford market here
Labour Leader Nigel Bell's alternative budget speech in full (See picture above)
"We meet to discuss Watford’s budget in still difficult economic times especially for Local Government finance due to the continuing austerity policies of this Conservative Government. Despite 5-years of cuts under the LibDem/Tory coalition govt up to last May,the cuts announced by the Chancellor in the autumn statement in November are savage and even the loyalist Tory County leadership have gone to the their friends in the Govt asking for help,well Chris Hayward and Robert Gordon it would have been better if you had spoken out for Herts residents well before the General election if you had wanted to truly stand up for Herts residents.
We now face £23million extra cuts this year than even those loyalists Conservative Cllrs expected.
For us here we now in this chamber know that Government grant to Watford will cease completely in 3-years and it is going to be very difficult for whoever runs this Council to manage our finances in a balanced way without careful monitoring of our services and investments and managing our assets,and we have an item later in the agenda about the new property investment board which is very important for this.
We propose to have no rise in Council Tax and to be responsible in trying to balance the books, but having due regard to our philosophy of trying to make sure that those most vulnerable in our town are looked after in the still difficult times that our residents face.
We make no apology in returning to the plight of St.Albans Road after another year of this LibDem controlled Council and still no real effort to revive such an important part of our town from the centre stretching to North Watford and beyond as residents and traders in St.Albans Rd can’t wait for the Watford Junction development,be it 2-years,5 or 10.
While we welcome solid growth projects such as Charter Place, once Intu came to the rescue,(incidentally how many here remember the £540,000 that was paid to the developer,Henry Boot back in 2012?- I do as I expect Cllr Johnson does as he sits now in the Cabinet,he was a Conservative then the leader and he was quoted by Michael Wright in the Observer,was it really half a million of taxpayers money ,but I thought the Mayor and the LibDemocrats didn’t waste Council taxpayers money)how times change or not as the case may be!- we still think Watford is more than the High street and while we have always thought longterm investment should be about the whole Town not just Mayoral vanity projects just a stone’s throw from this chamber by the pond,and that Queens Road should never have been neglected for so long by the Mayor as it should have been encouraged to be a hive of small business activity.
We have put a £1,000,000 into a ‘Homeless’ reserve noting the money put aside over the last few years by this administration was not enough to cope with the extra pressure we had on our hostels and housing team owing to the economic downturn and now the continued austerity policies from the present Conservative Government and the undue complacency of the Mayor’s policy.I can continually raised the homeless and housing policy for years in committees whether we had put enough resources aside in Budget panels and overview meetings over the years so was not surprised when more money had to be put in .Again we return to our proposed policy of FREE collections of 3-bulky items across the Borough,we know there is a cost and we thank Officers for working on this and working on comparisons with other Councils,but ‘flytipping’is literally a blight across our town not just in West Watford and Central Ward but in North Watford and beyond.
It is surely our duty to listen to our residents on an issue they continually raise with us and criticise the Mayor legitimately over, so we would want to reintroduce free bulky collections and look to partnership working on this with other neighbouring Councils, and innovative and cooperative work with charities and not-for profit organisations to ease the costs.
Clearly when residents all around can see a problem we as a Labour Group want to work with them to improve our town.
You will see our other measures cutting printing costs,SRA allowances by 10% and the Mayoral allowance.
At the Budget panel we naturally raised the proposed 100% rise in the cost of burying the dead and the administration have come back with ONLY a rise of 50%,well we don’t think that is right and we propose no rise for residents and a 5 times rise in non-resident burials.
What message would that 100% or even a 50% rise in burial charges have sent out to our town-we were not prepared to put up with that.
Watford residents are increasingly annoyed at the way Watford’s Charter Market has been treated by the Mayor and her administration-so many residents have commented on what has happened to it.
This is now a tired out old Liberal Democrat run Council after 14-years in power,,with the same old repeated slogans endlessly churned out in their leaflets, which after last May and since has been found out by Watford residents with an elected Mayor who seems to have taken her eye off the ball so much so that she literally seems increasingly impatient to be off to Westminster and to fully embrace her NEW title as the Baroness well above the fray of everyday decisions here in the town which she was elected to do 2-years ago.
Her and the Liberal Democrats time is coming to an end.
I commend our sensible and fair amendment tonight to the budget and ask for support across the chamber."