Crunch meeting as Bolton Council meets to approve annual budget
Updated 7:57am Thursday 27th February 2014 in News
This live event has finished
- Live updates from the meeting of Bolton Council tonight as town hall bosses discuss next year's budget.
- The meeting is due to start at 7pm, and the following items are on the agenda:
- Council tax is likely to go up by 1.94 per cent.
- Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris is calling for the council to use £400,000 to give a pay rise to Bolton Council's lowest paid staff.
- A petition will be handed in to save Winifred Kettle care home in Westhoughton.
And we're over and out. Thanks from me (and my super-fast typing colleague Neil) for following - check out tomorrow's paper for a full write-up of all tonight's events.
The final item! Minutes of the scrutiny committees are passed
... and now the licensing and regulations committee
Moving the minutes of the most recent planning committee...
We're now hearing justification for the police increasing it's proportion of the council tax bill. The commissioner Tony Lloyd said it's necessary in the face of Central government cuts
... and £3m will be kept back to help the council prepare for the 'likely cashflow shortfall' in 2015/16
Half a million will go to creating a fund to supporting community groups who take over some of the council's responsibilities...
There will also be £1m capital investment in facilities for young people, and £50k to create a hardship fund to support those facing difficulty as a result of changes to benefit
To recap, £21.7m of cuts - already laid out in last year's, two year budget, have been rubber-stamped. £400,000 will go towards boosting the salaries of council staff on the lowest wage to above £7 an hour, and there will be a £2mincestment into improving highways and residential roads
LABOUR'S BUDGET IS PASSED: Council tax will go up, after Lib Dem and Tory bids to freeze it fail
Cliff Morris: We in Labour have recognised the need for this increase (in council tax). We will not cut £6m out of our budget. Why should we impose more cuts? The government are imposing enough
Cliff Morris: The budget that we've presented is not just for next year, it's for the future.
Cliff Morris: The Tories are taking money from the disadvantaged so they can spend it on cleaning the streets.
Cliff Morris: Roger Hayes wants to spend money we haven't got.
Cliff Morris: we've cut members allowance by 10%, why do we need to cut it more?
Cliff Morris speaks.
This is more like a stand-up gig than a council meeting. Cllr Harkin rattling off the jokes! Now back to the serious stuff...
"we need a council that reflects the ethnic diversity of this borough, the gender diversity, the age make-up of this town."
It's all been taken in good spirits, in case any of the readers were hopeful of a riot breaking out in the chamber.
Guy Harkin makes another joke about the number of elderly gentleman in the Tories. Safe to say that's touched a nerve! Ouch.
Guy Harkin: We need a council which reflects the population. More than half of Bolton is female, but we don't have enough female councillors.
Cllr Guy Harkin speaks. He's just made a joke about a sleeping pill, which I've completely missed, but everyone else is laughing. Never mind, I'll just laugh along...
Kevin McKeon: We live in a low wage economy, which has dire consequences for many people. That's why I'm happy that we will provide more money to our lower paid staff. This is a socially just gesture.
Kevin McKeon: We are reminded by those right-wing think tanks that the rich need benefits to encourage them, while the poor need punitive measures to punish them.
Kevin McKeon: I'm referring to the Conservative amendment to the hardship fund.
What do you think workless people are? Are they not deserving of help and support? We must support desperate people.
Cllr Kevin McKeon speaks.
Hi folks, it's Neil again, taking over from Elaine. Let's go round again!
"Let's lead by example and take a cut", he calls on councillors
Cllr Morgan says the Tories have no problems in cutting unions funds, if we're taking cuts, so should they", he says
Cllr Andy Morgan now speaking - he says the coalition is very much dead in Bolton! Cheers and laughter from the Labour bench
And I'm now handing back over to Elaine. Hope you've enjoyed my coverage. It's harder than it looks, this live blogging!
Martyn Cox: We've seen some enormous successes in the last few years. We shouldn't be increasing business rates by 2%. There are a lot of small businesses in this town that will suffer.
Martyn Cox: Bolton celebrates success, it encourages it's entrepreneurs. That is the real way of alleviating poverty.
Cllr Martyn Cox speaks.
Akhtar Zaman: We accept that the homeowners are responsible for the upkeep of their properties, but for some people this is not possible. I therefore oppose the Tory's amendment because it will had a negative impact on private sector housing.
Akhtar Zaman: We have around 36,000 private sector homes across the borough. Some of these homes are near the cotton mills. Around 36% of our private sector properties are falling in standards.
Cllr Akhtar Zaman now speaks.
John Walsh: All that this budget does tonight, is increases pressure on the lowly paid residents of this borough. It's immoral.
Cue an outburst of cheers and roars of disagreement.
John Walsh: I welcome the fact that Cllr Morris supports the parking proposal, after all it was out proposal. I am pleased that Cllr Morris has approved highway funding, as he rejected this a few years ago.
Cllr John Walsh now speaks.
Nick Peel: This Tory amendment (reduction in area forum funding) is an attempt to divert £200,000 from the deprived areas of this borough. The Tory party are simply paying lip service to the issue of narrowing the gap. This is a pattern of hitting the most needy.
Nick Peel: We stand firm in our commitment to narrowing the gap for people in this borough.
Nick Peel: To take £200,000 out of this budget couldn't come out of the staff budget and is unlikely to come out of the area forum budget.
Cllr Nick Peel speaks.
Roger Hayes votes against the Tories' amendment.
Roger Hayes: Removal of the hardship fund would be completely the wrong thing to do in our situation.
Roger Hayes: We should be looking at saving money by making a strong commitment to renewable energy.
Roger Hayes: Residential roads have been badly neglected. We want £5m to be allocated on residential streets.
Roger Hayes: We should look at special responsibilitys allowance. These come to £190,000. We believe there should be a reduction in SRA at £60,000 a year. That would fund the council tax freeze.
Roger Hayes: We've raised before that we think the council can justify a reduction in councillors.
Roger Hayes: People will fail to understand why they're paying more council tax when the government has offered £1m not to.
Roger Hayes: Citizens of Britain have been through a very hard time, particularly in Bolton, where recovery is slower than in the affluent South.
Roger Hayes: If the cuts hadn't been made, we'd probably be in the same position as Greece. I apologise to any Manchester United fans here with us tonight!
Roger Hayes: It's easier to cut funding in a remote area and blame the local authority.
Roger Hayes: We've seen massive cuts and those are likely to continue for years to come. The government has targeted Bolton very unfairly.
Roger Hayes: We are seeing an inflation rate below 2%, more young people in employment, and a growth in confidence.
Roger Hayes: The national economic situation is beginning to show signs of recovery. I wouldn't like to blame the Labour government for that totally, I wouldn't like to blame the banks for that totally. Blame should not be the issue.
Cllr Roger Hayes now speaks.
David Greenhalgh: We believe more money has to be put towards environmental costs.
David Greenhalgh: We propose a one off investment of £1.5m to provide additional teams for a 2 year period to help Bolton clean it's streets.
And - inevitably - dog fouling has come up, as has fly tipping.
David Greenhalgh: We support the allocation of funding for outdoor activities for children.
David Greenhalgh: We will support the funding for voluntary groups who want to work with the council. But we do not support the £500,000 towards the hardship fund. We do not believe this is the best use of taxpayers' money.
David Greenhalgh: We accept the need to be prudent and retain £3m to go towards the cash flow in 2015.
David Greenhalgh: We would support Labour in funding a pay increase for the councils poorest paid staff.
David Greenhalgh: Most residents in this borough will not be able to understand why £600,000 could not be found from somewhere.
David Greenhalgh: We will continue to argue that these cuts are disproportionately targeted. Mr Balls and Labour will continue to talk about the cost of living, but they have proposed this increase in council tax.
David Greenhalgh: Britain has the highest growth in Western Europe, it's jobless rate is expected to fall by 6.8%, with more people expected to be in work than at any time in history.
David Greenhalgh: Labours solution to get out of the mess was to cut slower, not as deep and borrowing more. What a difference a year makes.
David Greenhalgh: We can all blame whoever we want for the financial mess we found ourselves in in 2010. The fact is huge cuts had to be made.
David Greenhalgh: I do not support the disproportionate way local government has been targeted.
Cllr David Greenhalgh now speaks.
Linda Thomas: Our council services cannot take much more. I hope that everyone here will support this budget and not play politics.
Linda Thomas: When about 5,000 homes in the South were flooded, did we hear the same cry? We need to help all those in need. Maybe this is what the government means when it talks about localism. You'll be alright if you live locally to them.
Murmurs of "disgraceful" come from parts of the chamber when the benefit cuts are brought up.
Linda Thomas: We've heard in the budget proposal about the huge disparity when there are huge cuts in councils like ours compared to those in the South.
Linda Thomas: Business rates have been increased by £6.5 million. This is the government of business, supposedly. They are striking people with sound bytes about parking to cover the fact they are crippling our local retailers.
Linda Thomas: Here in Bolton, we recognise that parking is an important part of our town centre offer.
Linda Thomas: Localism has been a tactic by the coalition. The government have tried to prevent us taking local decisions.
Linda Thomas: Eric Pickles has been the architect of out demise.
Cllr Linda Thomas now speaks.
Cliff Morris: The budget we are proposing is a prude and sensible one. I urge all members to support this budget.
Cliff Morris: There will be a half a million pound fund for voluntary groups who want to work with the council. We will spend £1m on services for young people across the borough.
Cliff Morris announces that there will be a pay rise for 700 council staff. Greeted with "here here"s.
Cliff Morris: We want to make some proposals. These include:
a £1m cap on highways
a £1m cap on residential roads
Cliff Morris: By capping the price of school meals, we not only ensure that children stay healthy, we help parents with the cost of living.
Cliff Morris: We have taken the decision to increase council tax. This is in contrast to the governments decision to increase business rates above inflation.
Cliff Morris: If we were to accept the freeze grant, we would still need to find another £600,000
Cliff Morris: The problem with the freeze grant is that it is a short-term solution to a long-term crisis.
Cliff Morris: The coalition are detached from the realities of everyday life outside London.
Cliff Morris: Im pleased to announce that we don't need any further cuts for the year 14/15
Now moving on to the councils budget.
Cliff Morris: The governments approach has been to cap benefits and tell people to find a job.
Cliff Morris now talking about health and social care. "We are looking to reduce the pressure on our health and social care system."
Cliff Morris: We have been working to develop a scheme in Farnworth, which will cost between £5-7m.
Cliff Morris announces that the council will extend free parking initiative for 12 months, until May 2015.
Cllr Morris announces that MBDA have submitted a planning application to build new facilities at Logistics North.
Cliff Morris: We must look at every option for delivering service. The economic downturn is set to continue. We need to rebuild a stronger economy locally, regionally and nationally. We need to ensure that local people benefit from the opportunities which will be created.
Cliff Morris: We will need to think carefully about the implications these cuts will have in the coming months. But we will need to make visible changes. We will need to explain to people that the council can't meet everybody's needs.
Cliff Morris: The strategy we have focused on so far is support for the economy. The new context of the council of even larger, more punishing cuts, mean that out priorities need to be reconsidered. We will always need to make sure that we maintain the legal minimum of services.
Cliff Morris: The government is ripping up the agreement which has been in place since council tax was introduced 20 years ago.
Cliff Morris: The reality is far from the rhetoric. When the government says it is making the same reduction across the board, what it fails to take into account is that our grant is based on needs and deprivation.
Cliff Morris: "let me lay out the challenges we face and the outlook for the coming years."
Cliff Morris will now speak at the meeting.
Hi folks, Neil here. I'll be updating you from here on in!
And we're off - Mayor's prayers and a thank you to Steve Arnfield from Cllr Colin Shaw
Chamber is filling up nicely, and we're almost ready to start. Is everyone holding onto their hats?
Budgets aside - tomorrow Steve Arnfield, deputy chief executive of the council, is retiring after 24 years as the director of finance tomorrow. Me and the rest of my colleagues at the Bolton News wish him a very happy retirement!
As suspected there's no sign of any protest from the unions outside the Town Hall, but we're hoping there's going to be lots of lively debate in the chamber all the same
Evening all, it's Elaine again. Neil and I have taken our places in the council chamber and councillors are beginning to enter and take their seats, ahead of the meeting starting at 7pm
They are the main issues up for debate tonight. Stay tuned for all the live updates from me and my colleague Neil Robertson from 6.30pm
Tories and Lib Dems in Bolton have put forward their own draft budgets, arguing that the council should accept a £1m offer from the goverment and freeze council tax. But Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, has said the maths don't add up - if they put up council tax by 1.94%, the council will receive £1.6 million
Tonight we expect that Bolton will become the first - and only - Greater Manchester council to increase council tax for residents. It's set to go up 1.94%, or 1.88% if you include the police and fire precept.
However, a lot of the cuts were agreed at last year's budget meeting, where they set a two year budget. Because of this, we understand that the unions won't be protesting outside the Town Hall as anticipated
The council is looking to slash £21.7 million from its budget next year (April 2014-March 2015) - meaning cuts in adults and children's services, the environmental department and also the chief executive's office
Afternoon all, it's Elaine here. I'm going to be covering tonight's budget meeting from 7pm tonight, live from Bolton Town Hall.