Labour Councillors Sneak Through Budget Cuts and Increase Councillor Allowances, Whilst Making Cuts to Services.
Opposition councillors on Worthing Borough Council have hit out at Labour councillors who forced through budget cuts amounting to around £600,000 at the full council meeting on 13th December. On an item relating to the Council Tax Support Scheme for Worthing the Labour leader Beccy Cooper proposed that the council's £39,000 hardship fund for those in severe financial difficulty be removed. To the astonishment of other councillors, Councillor Cooper claimed that this support "Will no longer be required" despite the ongoing cost of living crisis facing many hard working families in Worthing. Conservative councillor Dan Humphreys pointed out that the effect of Labour's decision to withdraw this hardship fund, will mean many residents who were already struggling to pay their council tax bills, would now have to pay their council tax in full and then the council would tell those same people to go to local food banks to collect food parcels, that they had already paid for through their council tax bills. (Most food banks receive financial support from the Council as well as voluntary donations).
Also forced through as part of the proposals were cuts of £80,000 to the local policing budget and over half a million pounds in cuts to funding available for local schools, highways repairs, waste disposal and children services in Worthing. None of these cuts were subject to meaningful consultation or promoted by Labour in their manifesto before the elections last May.
On the same night the Labour Councillors voted through a decision to increase councillor allowances by 5.82%; despite the council’s budget only making provision for a 2% increase. Conservative group leader Councillor Kevin Jenkins pointed out the hypocrisy of the Labour group decision, coming at a time when they have pledged to support families in Worthing where many are facing increased food and fuel costs. Labour councillors took to the floor of the council chamber and joined the debate. One stating that they were ‘Entitled to an increase in the wages’ and other stating that ‘They need this allowance increased to top their own salary up’. This was met with firm rebuttals that this is an allowance and not a salary and should be treated that way, they are there to serve their community, not themselves.