Stratford-on-Avon District Council: Councillor ‘reassured’ by reaction to his first budget plans
The councillor in charge of Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s finances feels “reassured” by public feedback on his budget proposals despite resistance from political opponents.
Councillor David Curtis (Stratford Shottery), the district’s portfolio holder for resources since the Liberal Democrats won power in May 2023, was heartened by the results of the council’s budget consultation.
The cabinet – the panel of Lib Dem councillors in charge of major service areas – this week voted to press ahead with their plans which will be decided on at a meeting for all councillors on Monday, February 26.
They include continuing with plans already in place to put up the district’s portion of council tax by the maximum amount allowed – £5 for the average (Band D) property – year on year.
The Conservatives and the Green Party have already put forward their proposed amendments with Tory group leader Councillor Sarah Whalley-Hoggins (Brailes & Compton) querying whether there would be “any regard” for them.
There are no counter proposals in relation to council tax rises but the Tories want to abolish Lib Dem plans for a £250,000 yearly spend replacing bin lorries with ones that run on vegetable oil, instead using that money to buy property to provide short-term accommodation for families fleeing domestic abuse or made homeless by no-fault evictions.
Councillor Liz Coles (Lib Dem, Stratford Hathaway), portfolio holder for customer services and housing, said the council already had a £37,000 government grant to fund a specialised domestic abuse housing advisor.
“It is going to be kept under review but the homelessness caused by domestic violence, we haven’t felt the need to put in an application to support any sort of shortfall,” she said.
“I know from conversations with my colleagues that homelessness is the end of a very long process and that is certainly being addressed by multiple agencies as it goes along.
“At the moment, while we absolutely get your concern over such a difficult situation, we don’t feel we need to adjust the budget to address a shortfall in that area at this point in time.”
Cllr Curtis cited the conultation results showing high levels of support for projects including £85,000 to support the continuation of the UBUS service, an extra £28,000 for rural crime advisors and £250,000 to continue support for those experiencing cost of living pressures.
“I think we can be fairly satisfied,” he said.
“No budget is going to please all people all of the time, we have to accept that, and I think we hear that it is a public consultation, not a referendum.
“Looking at the percentage of approval against not approving, while we can’t be complacent by any means, I think we can be reassured that what we are proposing in this budget, broadly speaking, chimes with the expectations of residents.”
Cllr Curtis also said two-thirds of people did not object to the bin lorry upgrades, although Councillor Andy Crump (Con, Southam East, Central & Stockton) was quick to note he had drawn in people who said they had no opinon either way.
The Conservatives also want to get rid of a £2 rise to annual fees for collecting garden waste, believing that the extra £94,000 it will raise can be covered by the accrual of interest.
They also want to allocate £100,000 to review the council tax reduction scheme, focusing on helping those on the lowest incomes, and increase provision for flood defences.
The Greens are calling for a 100 per cent increase to council tax on second homes with the estimated £100,000 per year raised used to fund employing two new officers specifically to focus on climate change and standards in the private housing sector.