“This Conservative administration has acted more like cash strapped, amateur property speculators who have racked up £700m of debt than a council administration who are there to provide services for their residents”.
That’s the view of Wokingham Borough opposition leader Cllr Lindsay Ferris, who set out his alternative budget proposals at a special meeting of the council, held at Shute End on Thursday, February 20.
He said that the Conservatives had “become complacent and arrogant in their approach to residents. Instead of providing services that the residents want, they are providing services the council wants to provide and in the way they want to provide them.”
And he added: “The Tories have no forward-thinking and overall strategy, many proposals being presented are reactions to events”.
As examples, he cited the closure of The Paddocks and Rose Street car parks, coupled with the recent buy-back of the Denmark Street Car Park.
“This is hardly joined-up planning and at what cost to the Council Tax paying residents?” he asked. “There has also been months of upheaval, which has severely impacted local businesses and residents alike.”
He also said that the Conservatives had “treated residents’ petitions … with utter disdain”.
“I am sure the residents from Shinfield, Barkham, and those supporting Hare Hatch Sheeplands will remember how they were treated and in effect ignored by this Conservative Administration. This will change under a Liberal Democrat-led administration.”
Cllr Ferris also said that the council tax rise “is the highest possible without a referendum”.
“We have a vision of a better run administration which listens to our residents to enable us to provide the services they want within our budget constraints,” he said.
In setting out his vision, he said that the Liberal Democrats, if ruling the council, would change its culture. He set out seven key visions:
- We would aim to make WBC more resident focussed, one of the best, if not the best Local Authority in England.
- The Liberal Democrats will support an ethical position on finance which is open and available to scrutiny.
- Be in the forefront of tackling environmental matters including the Climate Emergency, not just soundbites, but thought through plans in a structured, co-ordinated and quantifiable manner to achieve real results.
- Rebuild our Children’s Services Department so that it is better able to assist our local children and schools, (with a future aim of making this one of the best in the country)
- Focus the council on providing the right number and type of homes for our local people. This includes the provision of truly affordable homes. Our focus will be on 1,2,3 bedroom homes for local families and single people and the provision of 1 and 2 bedroomed bungalow’s for our older residents to move into so that they are able to downsize and stay in the area.
- Establish Wokingham Borough as a vibrant centre for the arts and culture.
- The better provision of Adult Social Services and improved support for carers.
He added: “We believe we are ready, open and able to take on running of this council”.