Merton Budget 2013: Calls for council tax cut as reserves grow to £90m
This year’s budget has been branded "lazy" by Merton's opposition councillors, who say proposed cuts to services are "unfair and unnecessary".
Councillors will meet tonight at the Civic Centre to discuss the draft business plan for 2013-17, in which the Labour-run administration will propose a freeze to council tax for the third year running.
But there are also a raft of cuts to services, which the leadership insists are necessary to offset a £6.2m cut in Government funding.
Opposition councillors have pointed to a recorded under spend of £4m on this year’s budget and have claimed the cuts are not needed.
The Conservatives said the council could have cut council tax by 5 per cent if the administration had made "efficiency savings".
Councillor Suzanne Grocott, Conservative finance spokeswoman, said: "Labour has under-spent on their 2012/13 budget by £4m, and total reserves now stand at £90m"
"How on earth any responsible council administration can still be cutting back and damaging crucial services to residents is beyond me and will be beyond most borough residents.
"They are trumpeting the fact they’ve frozen council tax in the blind hope of bamboozling us all, as if they have worked some minor miracle."
Liberal Democrats have said they will be opposing a plan to cut the ‘walk sheets budget’, which carries out non urgent road repairs, by £50,000, because of concerns it will end up costing more in the long-term.
Coun Iain Dysart, the Lib Dem Group leader, said: "Cutting the budget for road repairs is a complete false economy.
"Failure to sort non-urgent repairs involves unacceptable risk of larger, more costly, repairs becoming necessary.
"And heaven forbid that someone might fall and hurt themselves because a trip hazard wasn't sorted - when the council would then rightly be liable for compensation."
But Coun Mark Allison, Merton Council's cabinet member for finance, refuted the claims and branded the Merton Conservatives as "living in a fantasy world".
He said: "Everyone knows the Government is cutting funding to Councils, but because we’re efficient and businesslike, we’re protecting priority services.
"Our reserves are lower than virtually every south London Conservative council, but they’re all jacking up taxes and cutting services.
"If Wimbledon’s Tories expect people to believe they’d be different, they’re living in a fantasy world."
The draft budget will be discussed by councillors at a full council meeting at 7.15pm in the main chamber of Merton Civic Centre.
Visit wimbledonguardian.co.uk tomorrow for a report on how Merton Council will spend your money for the next few years.