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Thurrock Labour Council’s proposed 2011/12 Budget, which proposed cuts to a number of key front line services valued by residents, has been defeated thanks to a Conservative alternative Budget which was agreed by Thurrock’s Full Council at its meeting on 1st March 2011. The Conservative alternative Budget, voted throuh with the support of Independents, also included a quarter point (0.25%) reduction in Council Tax funded by additional back office efficiency savings and improved business approaches.

The Conservative amendment to the Council’s Budget has avoided cuts of £653,000 that Labour planned to a range of environment, community safety and older peoples’ services. Cuts that will no longer go ahead, thanks to the Conservative amendments, mean that the Council’s three bin waste collection service will remain weekly, service cuts to street cleaning and greening will no longer be implemented, and a Labour plan to reduce funding of pendant alarms for older people will no longer go ahead. At the same time the Conservative Budget enables the Council to continue match funding of police officers. A new ‘Big Society’ fund will also be created by diverting funds from other existing Council sources to enable local groups, charities, voluntary sector organisations, social enterprises, and Council Members to apply for funds to support the most worthwhile community projects.

To fund these vital services, Conservatives have identified alternative savings of £808,000 in the Council’s back office, together with improved approaches to business in a range of areas that will not negatively impact front line services valued by residents.

Councillor Garry Hague, Leader of the Conservative Group, said:

“I am pleased for the people of Thurrock that we were able to stop the madness of Labour’s cuts to highly valued front line services from being implemented. The alternative savings we have identified to fund these services are in the back office or reflect improved approaches to a range of areas of the Council’s business that will be delivered more efficiently and effectively. For example, reducing the number of Cabinet portfolio holders enables the senior management structure to be further streamlined, and packaging up the Council’s leisure activities to enable a specialist organisation to run these will both improve efficiency and ensure the services are run better.

“I am also delighted that residents will now benefit from a reduction in Council Tax for 2011/12. I believe this is a first in Thurrock and continues our commitment to reduce the burden of tax on residents whenever possible. Under the last six years of Conservative control of Thurrock Council, Council Tax was only increased by broadly around the rate of inflation, in contrast to Labour’s 48% increase when they last ran the Council. This year, thanks to a further £1.4 million grant from the Coalition Government, together with the surplus savings we have identified, residents will see the benefit of their Council tax reducing.

“In summary the choices as to where, and how, the required savings are made are fundamentally the responsibility of the Labour Administration – they cannot blame the Coalition Government for where they decided to let the axe fall. They got it wrong, and I’m delighted that Full Council agreed not to support the Labour Budget and instead voted for the Conservative amendments which will see valued environment, community safety and older peoples’ services continue.

“Setting the Annual Budget is one of the most important elements of the Council’s business as it directs where the Council focuses its resources and priorities for the coming year. With their failure to get their Budget approved by the Full Council, we now have a situation where Labour are technically in office but not in power. How can our residents have confidence in them. I believe this is an unprecedented situation in Thurrock and it leaves the Leader and Labour Administration in an untenable position.”

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