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Council to consider opposition's budget proposals

MEMBERS of BCP Council’s cabinet will consider budget proposals put forward by the opposition Conservative group when they meet later this month.

All but one of the 75 councillors agreed that a 25-page budget paper setting out financial proposals, including further investment to fund new priorities, should be analysed by senior figures, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Conservative group leader Cllr Drew Mellor said councillors needed to be involved in the “seismic” changes needed to the council’s budget as a result of the impact of the coronavirus.

Measures to plug a forecast funding gap of more than £30m for this year were looked at during last month’s cabinet meeting but it was decided a new budget-setting process was not needed.

Cllr Mellor said he had originally been advised by “senior officers” within the council that this would be the case, providing councillors an opportunity to debate financial proposals.

As a result, he put forward a motion at last Tuesday’s full council meeting that his group’s “budget reset paper” should be considered at the next meeting of the cabinet.

Included in the document is a host of new measures such as increasing the public facilities available along the seafront and greater investment in environmental schemes and mental health projects.

“That the Unity Alliance has decided to bring forward such a seismic change to the budget without consultation is both surprising and concerning,” he said.

“This motion is simply requesting that cabinet consider different proposals, and our paper presents a potential direction of travel… and a more ambitious programme that addresses the needs of this unprecedented time.”

Concerns were raised by members of the ruling coalition that his proposals had been sent to councillors only two hours before their meeting started.

Council leader Cllr Vikki Slade said the constantly changing financial situation, including new announcements by the government, was why it decided against going through a second budget process this year.

“There are more than 300 councils in England, only 20 are considering a budget,” she said.

“The rest are retaining their budget and that’s for one very good reason – the budget gap is changing day by day, week by week.

“Every time we rewrote this budget it would need to be rewritten again the following month.”

Despite this, councillors agreed almost unanimously that the Conservatives’ paper be considered at the 29th July meeting of the cabinet.

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