31 Jan 2013

Some great improvements to the Conservatives' budget

I'm happy to report that I had another successful budget night at St Albans Council on Wednesday.

Each year I have the opportunity to ask for changes to the budget and Corporate Plan, as do the other opposition parties.

I proposed an amendment that included 12 new measures, from exploring ways to boost local businesses, to informing residents when local trees are to be felled. One of them, which tried to oppose expansion at Luton Airport, was voted down by the Tories and some Labour councillors. But the others succeeded.

As a result, they now become part of the budget, and the list of priorities for the Council for the coming year.

My measures are:
  1. investing up to £500,000 in new renewable energy projects in Council buildings
  2. investing up to £50,000 in quick-win energy and water efficiencies in Council buildings
  3. exploring ways to create a new Youth Centre
  4. getting the Council to use more local businesses as suppliers
  5. creating a cycling action plan
  6. using more social media to improve customer service
  7. informing residents when there's an application to chop down a local tree
  8. helping schools to set up solar power projects
  9. providing a £20,000 'community planting' budget that local groups can apply for
  10. setting up a climate change action group on the Council
  11. examining the business case for a self-financing energy efficiency officer
I was also happy to support measures from the other parties that kept council house rent rises down to 3.1% (the rate of inflation), and maintained council tax support for the least well off. The Conservatives had wanted rents to go up 5.2%, and to hugely reduce council tax support - described nationally as a potential new poll tax on the poor.

At the same meeting I proposed a motion for the Council to do more about fuel poverty. The motion was keenly debated, and additions were made by other parties. In the end the motion was agreed, and a committee will immediately start looking at what can be done in this area.

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