Council approves budget, despite concerns

News from the Boston Standard, Lincolnshire: bostonstandard.co.uk, on Twitter @standardboston
News from the Boston Standard, Lincolnshire: bostonstandard.co.uk, on Twitter @standardboston

Boston Borough Council’s budget for the coming year was approved at a meeting of the full council last night, despite criticisms from the opposition that it was ‘unfair and unequal’.

At a heated meeting of the full council last night (Monday), members voted to accept the budget, which contained controversial measures including a change to council tax benefits and a reallocation of funding from one charity to another. However, the authority has frozen its portion of council tax for yet another year.

Coun Paul Kenny said he thought it was unfair for the council to consider increasing its special responsibilities allowance for some members – something which is due to be considered at a later date – when people would be struggling as a result of this budget.

“I suppose you will say we’re all in this together,” he told the leading Conservative group.

Finance portfolio holder Coun Raymond Singleton-McGuire defended the plans, saying the council was ‘trying to make the best of a very bad situation’, which has been brought about following swingeing cuts in funding from central government.

He added: “This has been developed at a time of significant financial challenge nationally. We have had to make tough budget decisions to ensure we balance the books and continue to provide vital services to local people, including some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

The focus of the budget is on ‘improving housing and boosting growth’, he said, though some councillors said they did not think that freezing council tax for another year was the way to do that.

Labour’s Coun Paul Goodale said: “I think if we go on the view of council’s needing to develop, the only way to do it is having money to develop with, and the only way we can do that is to have a council tax increase. I accept that nobody wants to pay more council tax, but we provide vital services, and I think people will pay for that.”

As part of this year’s budget, £20,000 has been reallocated from Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Services (CVS) to the town’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB). The council said the decision had been made as it anticipated tat upcoming welfare reform would see an increase in demand for the services of the CAB.

Coun Mike Gilbert said: “Going into the choppy waters of welfare reform, the CAB will be the organisation which could keep people away from Boston Borough Council’s door. We have to use our money strategically to make sure we get the best bang for our buck.”

But Coun Helen Staples said she found the idea of taking funding away from voluntary services – which she called ‘the backbone of the town’ – did nothing to support the idea of David Cameron’s ‘big society’.

The new budget will take affect at the start of the new financial year next month.