Since 1998 the Conservative councillors in Lambeth have produced a legal and balanced alternative budget to Labour—2014 was no exception. While accepting the administration recommendation for a council tax freeze in 2014-2015, we emphasised that this was only made possible by the subsidy from the Conservative lead Government. Cllr John Whelan, Conservative Group Leader, attacked Labour for its lack of ambition—Westminster has frozen the council tax for two years, Conservative Kensington & Chelsea is offering residents £100 cash back, and Conservative Croydon is giving paid up householders £25 cash back. Our budget stripped £100,000 from propaganda and handed back this money for consultation on controlled park zone extensions—a major issue in West Norwood.
Our finance lead Cllr Julia Memery, who works in the City as a finance expert, said: “The Conservative alternative budget largely mirrors the principles we have promoted in all our budgets in recent years and we still believe they are valid and would result in a lesser reduction to front line services. The Council spends £257 million a year across its 30 largest contracts, and the proposed savings in this area are relatively minimal opposite the overall spend. We propose much greater savings could be achieved here.
“Our contract framework with Capita, for example, covers a huge array of potential services. We only outsource the collection of council tax and business rates and general call handling. Capita case studies show that a local authority can expect to save circa 20 per cent on transferring the delivery of service to them.
“We encourage the principle of “polluter pays” referenced in the administration’s budget, although we would take this further – we would increase licensing enforcement resource, which would be paid in full by fines levied against problem licensees. We believe this would create more responsible licensees and go some way in preventing the sorts of issues we have witnessed on Clapham High Street. However, we were concerned by the Administration’s objective to growing the night time economy, due to the anti-social issues and associated costs it creates.
“Another principle we would mirror elsewhere is the Community Infrastructure Levy structure whereby 25% of revenue raised is shared with the neighbourhood impacted by the development – we propose that 25% of any funds raised through events should be channelled back into the green space used to host it. We continue to oppose the excessive events, for example 3 day music festivals on Clapham Common which trash the land, but we if the administration insists on doing this, we think the hosting common should at least benefit in some way.
“Finally we would reduce spend on communications – in particular the closure of Lambeth Talk. These additional funds will be put towards an initiative which will enable residents to have their say on controlled parking zones and/or their extensions.
“With additional savings identified by the Conservative Group, we would introduce further initiatives to create and support young people into apprenticeships in Lambeth. The large development projects currently underway in Lambeth create a real opportunity for many young people seeking work and experience, and make this an ideal time to introduce further support. We also earmark funding specifically for supporting young people leaving care and moving into higher education or apprenticeships.”