Press Release: Medway Greens Respond to Council Budget Meeting

Councillor Jarrett, Conservative Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance, was booed and jeered from the public gallery last Thursday as he discussed the Medway Council budget. The booing commenced as he claimed that Medway residents thought the Council provided good value for money services.

Trish Marchant, Medway Green Party Co-ordinator, said:

“This is a budget which passes on cuts in services and additional charges to the people of Medway as a result of the decisions of his own party in central government. It’s laughable that he is attempting to defend that by speaking of support by local people when in reality the Council haven’t even bothered to carry out a consultation”.

The budget, which the Labour opposition members claimed didn’t add up, had to be hastily put together, in two weeks, by the Medway Council ruling Tory group, because the Tory government didn’t release the final settlement until then. While services such as free swimming and free parking at Christmas were retained, it involved slashes to front line services, including Sure Start (disguised as efficiency savings) and Medway Youth Trust.

The 1.994% rise in Council Tax was just enough to avoid giving the public a referendum, something that Tory Communities Minister, Eric Pickles, has said is undemocratic. Furthermore, charges were being imposed, for the first time, on some people who have previously been exempt. But the benefits they receive are not enough to cover these, newly imposed, Council Tax payments.

“It is unworkable” said Trish Marchant. “Costs will mount up if people are taken to court by Medway Council in an attempt to retrieve the inevitable backlog of Council Tax payments. It is ridiculous to issue bills to people who simply haven’t got the money to pay. It will cost more in the long run”.

Trish added: “On top of that, the housing issue is a ticking time bomb. We know that the Citizens Advice Bureau have warned them of the looming housing crisis in Medway, but the removal of council tax relief in the council’s budget has just made that situation worse.”

Members of the Green party and of Medway Against the Cuts (MAC), who had earlier protested against the cuts outside the meeting, left once it became clear that the meeting had deteriorated into angry confrontations and personal attacks between Councillors of the elected parties. As Green Party members left the meeting, Trish Marchant spoke further of her concerns.

“That Tory Council members can describe the Labour members’ criticism of the hardship these cuts will cause as “an emotive and senseless diatribe” is scary. They don’t seem to understand the impact the coalition’s welfare cuts will have on the poorest people in Medway”.

ENDS

Notes for editor: Medway Council meeting agenda items for Thursday, 21 February 2013 7.00pm:

http://democracy.medway.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=2580

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