Warwickshire budget: council tax freeze and u-turn on bus assistants axe

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A reinstatement of school bus assistants, a freeze in council tax and money set aside for pedestrianisation have been announced in Warwickshire County Council’s 2013-14 budget.

The decisions were rubber-stamped at a full council meeting on Tuesday and will be welcome news to almost 7,000 people who signed a county-wide petition demanding the council reverse its decision on the removal of school-bus chaperones. The council’s decision on council tax, which will remain at £1,155.25 for a band D house, came about thanks to a Government grant. Meanwhile the council are paying for half of Rugby’s £1.1 million pedestrianisation scheme, the rest is being paid for by Rugby Borough Council.

Cllr Alan Farnell, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “In the last year we’ve continued to reduce the amount of buildings that we operate from and worked with partners in the district councils, public bodies and the voluntary sector to deliver a range of services more efficiently.

“We have looked at everything that we do to see if it can be done at less cost and we have passed that saving on to our customers.”

Amendments were put to the Tory-led council by Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillors.

The Liberal Democrats proposed that an additional £1.2 million be spent on family support, children’s centres and youth support services. They also wanted a £500,000 fund to support small businesses with start-up grants of up to £10,000, £600,000 invested in public transport, a £400,000 commitment towards community safety initiatives and a £2 million Your Streets fund to make travel safer for school children and communities.

They also asked the council to slash the cost of Shire Hall bureaucracy by £800,000 a year.

Cllr Jerry Roodhouse, leader of the Warwickshire Liberal Democrats, said: “We were horrified when we saw the budget proposals put forward by the ruling Conservative group. The Tories want to slash children’s early years and youth services, while doing nothing for public transport, where Warwickshire is now bottom of the league nationally. Yet they are allowing costly Shire Hall bureaucracy to carry on unchecked.”

Labour councillors wanted £500,000 to be made available to enable the council to keep street lights switched on all night across Warwickshire.

With Rugby Borough Council also freezing their share of council tax, the overall rise as a result of police and fire authorities will likely be modest and should be known by the end of the month.