When setting their budget on Monday, Bromley Tories were faced with a choice. In the previous weeks, council finance officers had worked the figures to find another £1.7mn while still keeping to a nil budget increase. What an opportunity. Amongst all the gloom of the cuts imposed by the coalition government, here was a chance to protect services to the vulnerable.
The Labour group welcomed a change of heart over reducing spending on mental health services and support for Carers. And that still left a further 1.3mn.
Despite there being clear evidence that children’s services had been unfairly hit by previous cuts, Bromley Tories decided to use the money to reverse proposed cuts in highways and refuse.
The Labour alternative proposal was to make the remaining £1.3mn in the annual budget available to support children aged 0-5 and to support school improvement. The progress of Bromley children in the early years had been raised as a cause for concern in a recent Ofsted report on the council.
We did not abandon roads and the other environmental spending. With the council reserves climbing to around £70mn, there was plenty of leeway to make sure our roads and verges were well looked after out of money available for one-off spending.
We believe our budget proposal would have protected Bromley’s highways and greenery while at the same time reducing the risk to our youngest and most needy residents.