New Forest Liberal Democrats accuse ruling Conservatives of putting 'partying before people' over jubilee funding
A POLITICAL row broke out after councillors were granted a combined £24,000 extra to hand out to communities during the Queen’s jubilee year.
The Conservatives on New Forest District Council came under fire from opposition Liberal Democrats for agreeing to increase the fund each councillor is allocated to hand out to community projects.
A vote at a recent full council meeting passed a special one-off rise for 2022/23 from £600 to £1,000, despite claims it was the wrong priority for the money.
Lib Dem finance spokesperson Cllr Jack Davies said: "Yet again, the Conservatives have put partying before people. The council needs to sort out its priorities."
At the same meeting a Lib Dem move to spend £50,000 of the council’s reserves to on tackling child poverty was voted down by the majority Tory group.
Cllr Davies said afterwards: "[During the meeting] the leader of the council scoffed at Lib Dem plans to tackle child poverty. ‘What’s that going to do?’ he asked. Well, it will do an awful lot more than what they’re doing."
But NFDC leader Cllr Edward Heron accused the opposition of "nothing more than cynical electioneering".
He said the approved Conservative budget would help create thousands of new jobs and ensure training was available to local residents.
He said: "The additional funding provided for councillors is not restricted for use towards the platinum jubilee, although I suspect many councillors will want to support community events and celebrations within their areas.
"Should any councillor wish to use some, all or indeed pool their funds with other councillors, to support community groups or local organisations that assist low-income families, they can of course do so."
He added that NFDC approved had £215,000 of community grants for 2022/23.
Figures revealed there are more than 4,000 children within the New Forest living with low-income families.
Noting that as "deeply concerning", Cllr Heron added: "The Liberal Democrats did not put forward a proposal to help these families, instead they wanted to pay £50,000 for a council officer to undertake work that this council is already doing with partners.
"For example, the agreed Conservative budget provided £600,000 to Citizens Advice New Forest, who provide support to struggling families."