Environmental push and further tax rise in opposition’s proposed BCP Council budget amendments

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bcp council budget amendments
Bournemouth Town Hall, HQ for BCP Council

THE main opposition group on BCP Council will put a greater focus on green projects and social care through its budget amendment proposals at the full council meeting tonight (Tuesday), it said.

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Funded through a further council tax rise and the removal of more than £2m earmarked for regeneration, the Unity Alliance said its budget was “fair, prudent and responsible”, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

But concerns have been raised in the hospitality and arts sectors with industry leaders saying it amounted to “abandoning” some of the region’s biggest employers.

The Unity Alliance’s amendments include a £1m respite fund for carers and a hold on any increase in social care charges.

It said introducing inflation-busting fee rises while clapping for the NHS would be “the height of hypocrisy”.

The ruling minority Conservative group’s proposals involve a freeze for BCP’s majority part of the council tax bill for Christchurch residents – charging an average band D home £1,541.57.

Separately from the budget, the Liberal Democrats will call on the council to support a campaign for a £1,000-a-year increase to the carer’s allowance.

The Unity Alliance budget amendments also propose replacing the Conservatives’ £1.75m regeneration allocation with a “green recovery fund” and a residents’ card providing discounts and free short-term parking for people who live in the area.

“The amendment we seek is modest, honest, responsible and prudent,” said Lib Dem Cllr Mike Cox, the Unity Alliance lead member for finance.

“It seeks to invest in the wellbeing of our most vulnerable residents, provide for a green recovery for our businesses as well as secure and even out the sustainable income stream to pay for it.”

The coalition’s amendment will be put forward during the budget debate at tonight’s full council meeting, which will vote on the proposals.

However, members of its second largest group, the Christchurch Independents, will abstain from the vote due to the proposal for a further 1% council tax rise.

This would be on top of the average 1.55% increase planned by the Conservative administration across the BCP conurbation, which does not apply to Christchurch.

The proposed amended budget has also attracted opposition in the hospitality sector, with senior figures in the industry saying it was “short-sighted”.

“The proposal to replace [regeneration] investment with a green recovery fund is just not addressing the immediate emergency,” said Kris Gumbrell, chief executive of Brewhouse and Kitchen. “In normal times I would completely support the council. We want to be green but we have to survive first.”

His comments were echoed by Andy Lennox, founder of hospitality group the Wonky Table, who called on councillors to support the Conservative budget proposals.

And representatives of the Lighthouse, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Pavilion Dance South West have also objected to the Unity Alliance plans due to their deferral of £100,000 in arts funding.

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