BOROUGH residents will see part of their council tax frozen for a further two years – but community organisations that help those in need will have their funding slashed from April after Conservative councillors voted through a highly-controversial budget plan.
Opposition councillors described the Tory budget as an “omnishambles” and criticised cuts to frontline organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
But the ruling administration said the budget was a “plan for the future”, and they promised to freeze the authority’s portion of council tax in April 2013 and April 2014.
Funding for major building projects over the next four years has been set at £31.6million. This will start the regeneration of Basing View as a “green business hub equipped with superfast broadband”, revamp the Top of The Town, improve residential parking, and pilot solar panels on council buildings.
Council leader Councillor Clive Sanders said: “Our economy is vital. Thriving businesses bring jobs and prosperity. This is why we are allocating significant fund to regenerating Basing View.
The budget also announced £500,000 for a Community Support Fund to provide additional support to vulnerable residents, alongside a £500,000 boost to improve residential parking, and the creation of a £1m Green Investment reserve.
Labour group leader Cllr Laura James said the administration was “full of warm words” but had a record of “talking lots and doing little.”
She called on the administration to stop cuts to the five Basingstoke community schools, and to reverse the 12 per cent average reduction to borough-based community organisations, like Victim Support.
Cllr James said: “You can balance any budget if you cut enough out of it, and this is a budget that will lead to millions of pounds of cuts which hurt the most vulnerable in our community.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Gavin James said the Conservatives were “off message” and urged the administration to stop cuts to the CAB.
He added: “At a time when the Coalition is trying to simplify the most confusing benefits system, and changing the criteria for housing benefit, you want to reduce funding for the CAB. How off message can we be? A not-for-profit organisation, run by an army of volunteers offering advice on things you’d expect the state to provide, will get reduced funding. The finest example of the Big Society...broken.”
The budget and council plan were unanimously supported by the Conservatives and were passed by a 32-27 majority with support also coming from Independent Basing councillor Onnalee Cubitt and Tadley UKIP councillor Stephen West.