Alden budget plans to show ‘how Birmingham would look under Tory control’
Birmingham’s opposition Conservative group will use today’s city council budget meeting as a dry run for 2018, when they hope to oust Labour and win power.
Tory leader Robert Alden said an alternative financial package he will propose would “demonstrate how Birmingham would look under a Conservative council”.
He will put forward proposals for £200 million of changes to council spending plans over the next four years, which he described as “the most comprehensive alternative vision the council chamber has ever been presented with”.
There is no possibility of the Conservative proposals being accepted, or of the controlling Labour group’s budget plans being rejected. Labour, with 78 councillors, enjoys a majority of 36 over the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independents combined.
However, the Tories will expect to make gains at the civic elections this May, where Labour has to defend seats the party won at a high point of popularity in 2012. National opinion polls continue to show a clear Conservative lead with Labour lagging behind under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
There are no elections in 2017, but Birmingham will switch to all-out elections every four years from 2018, where all council seats have to be contested.
The first all-out contest will have added interest if Boundary Commission proposals to reduce the size of the council from 120 to 101 members are accepted by the Government. It’s also proposed the current 40 wards will be increased to 77 wards, 53 represented by one councillor and 24 by two councillors.
The Conservatives ran the council in coalition with the Liberal Democrats from 2004 to 2012 but have not been able to command an overall majority in the chamber since the early 1990s.
Cllr Alden said his budget proposals were framed around Birmingham becoming a “city of aspiration”, and would provide a plan to help residents from preschool, through to employment.
In common with the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives would scrap the annual £35 green waste collection charge, reinstate free household bulky waste collections and increase the street cleaning budget.
The aim was to make sure Birmingham enjoyed “the cleanest streets in the country”, Cllr Alden said.
Labour proposals to build new housing on under-used parks would be scrapped. Cllr Alden said:
Our vision will enable us to put £2million back into children’s centres, helping the next generation right at the start of life and we will outline a plan to be able to transform our failing children services.
Our amendment to the budget will provide support for start-up business and help people wanting to become self-employed.
Cllr Alden hit out at what he said was Labour’s “doom and gloom” approach to the council’s financial difficulties and pointed out that the Government had recently awarded Birmingham £163 million more in grant over the next four years than had been expected.
This means the council has the chance to offer a real path to prosperity and world class services in 2020 and beyond.
The talk of doom and gloom by the Council shows how they are incapable of dealing with a £3 billion budget. Our plan shows how the future can be different.
How Birmingham can once again have the cleanest streets in the country, how children growing up in our city can and should have the best opportunity to succeed. Our plans would make Birmingham a city of aspiration and opportunity for all.
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