ALL the parties of Kirklees Council will go head-to-head on Wednesday over the budget for the next 12 months.
The Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, the Tories and the Greens have each drawn up budget proposals for the 2009/10 financial year.
They have also set out how much council tax would rise. Local Government Reporter Barry Gibson asks the party leaders how they plan to spend your money.
CLR MEHBOOB KHAN, head of the 22-strong Labour group and leader of the ruling Labour-Lib Dem coalition, is proposing a 3.5% rise in council tax.
"We’re proposing to safeguard a number of budget areas that the Conservatives had planned to cut before we removed them from power last month. We’ll maintain the £254,000 school clothing vouchers for low-income families. When families can’t afford the correct uniform it can harm the child’s self-esteem and lead to bullying.
"We’re also reversing the Conservative plan to cut the benefits advisory budget by £122,00. This would have led to six job losses and meant 500 fewer people being able to access benefit advice.
"The Conservatives were also planning a £90,000 cut in the Shopmobility scheme, which just shows how callous they are.
"It provides motorised scooters and wheelchairs to disabled people which gives them the chance to visit the shops or the town centre. The scheme is very popular with some of the most vulnerable people in the community."
CLR KATH PINNOCK, deputy leader of the council and head of the 19 Lib Dems on Kirklees, is proposing a joint budget with Labour which includes a 3.5% council tax rise.
“We’ve put aside £1.5m to help deal with the effects of the recession. Like any business, the council has to look at how its priorities will change during the economic downturn.
“There’s a real shortage of family housing so we’re going to have a serious stab at creating more. We can use council resources to buy homes that are on the market in the right areas.
“We also want to invest an extra £5.3m in the Young People’s Service. A good chunk of that will go to safeguarding vulnerable children and extending positive activities which keep young people off the streets and get them doing something worthwhile.
“We want to spend £1m putting bio-mass boilers in eight council buildings. These help cut carbon output by burning chipped or paletted wood.”
CLR ROBERT LIGHT leads the 22 opposition Conservative councillors. His party is proposing a 3% rise in council tax.
“When we ran the Kirklees from 2006 until last month, we kept council tax rises at 3%. We were able to keep the increases low by making efficiency savings. That commitment is more important now than it’s ever been.
“Many people in the borough are on short-term working and they’ve seen their costs rise and their incomes fall. The last thing they need is a greedy Kirklees Council taking more council tax than they need.
“Our budget proposal includes spending £3m more on vulnerable children to ensure we can deal with their needs properly. Five years ago, when the Lib Dems ran Kirklees, the budget for vulnerable children was chronically under-funded. Since then we’ve put in more money but we still need to do more as Kirklees spends less than similar councils elsewhere.
“We’re also proposing a £5m plan to cope with the recession. This includes improving our benefits advice and restructuring our economic development.”
CLR ANDREW COOPER leads the four-strong Green group on Kirklees. His party is proposing a 3% council tax increase.
“Our party wants to start a Dragons’ Den style scheme in Kirklees. We want to offer a year’s free rent to businesses to encourage them to move into empty council-owned shops and offices. If we can get good sound businesses into these areas they will remain tenants for years to come.
“We want to spend £800,000 over five years to replace sodium street lights with LED ones, which only use about 20% of the energy.
“We are proposing building a play area in front of Huddersfield Bus Station because we want to make kids feel welcome in the town centre.
“We also want to extend the Warmzone scheme, which offers residents free cavity wall insulation. Quite a few houses in Kirklees have filled walls which can’t benefit from this, so we want to spend £5m to offer these households either cladding or internal dry lining.”