Last night was the budget setting meeting at Tandridge District Council where it was agreed to increase tax for a band D home by 2.52% or £5, however the meeting was shaken by Conservative Leader Martin Fishers announcement that the council would be supporting the development of a Garden Village in the District.
The budget setting was against a backdrop of the 24.6% cut in local government funding voted for by Sam Gyimah last February.
Whilst the Liberal Democrat group support the preservation of services we were unable to support the detail. Within the budget are key issues that despite seeking clarity, we were not able to get and as such the Liberal Democrat abstained.
Regarding parking, the budget included an increase of £200,000 of car parking revenue that was described as “extending charges.” Cllor Alun Jones asked for assurance that this is not the end of a free parking allowance that helps our town centres like at Town End Car Park in Caterham on the Hill and the Ellice Road car park in Oxted town centre. They refused to confirm that free parking was here to stay. With the upcoming rates revaluation, our hard pressed retailers could suffer more."
Also hidden in the budget was an increase in funding of “Public Relations” of nearly £60,000. Cllr David Lee says “At a time when the council is finding the finances tough, it is ludicrous that spending on this increases from £109,000 to £167,000 annually. Just like Surrey Tories wasting millions on Surrey Matters magazine, I just don’t understand on why Conservative run Tandridge wants to spend £167,000 on publicising itself.”
Councillor Chris Botten, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group said “at the heart of this, the government is essentially privatising local councils. We see this where they are being forced to borrow £50m to speculate in the property market to raise revenues. This has been done to ensure survival of services, however there is risk. We need to ensure that ethical thinking is at the heart of everything that we do, otherwise how do we differentiate ourselves from the likes of Capita.”
Chris Botten added cautious welcome to the proposals for a garden village. “We laid down our three lines in the sand last year for the Local Plan. Our campaigning has worked, because now the administration understands we need 1) more infrastructure 2) no increase in density and 3) to protect local green spaces. We have been fighting over development in the North of the District as our infrastructure is creaking. We have been campaigning for a development like this, however we need to know where it is. The site identified in Chaldon is not the way forward. Whilst investment would be made in the new town, we also need to be clear on how the underinvestment in other area.”