Coin PileAt the full Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) budget meeting on 21.2.2012, the main opposition (17 strong Liberal Democrats) group proposed a number of changes to the majority Conservative budget. If adopted, these would have increased spend on much needed highways repairs, especially footways, allowed local county councillors more say over keeping street lights on all night, provided more salting particularly near schools and restored the schools’ library service – whilst keeping the council tax rise to zero. [For full list of Liberal Democrat budget proposals, see attachment.] All the amendments were defeated by the Conservative majority.

Local Chells county councillor, Robin Parker, said: “As usual, the Conservative group bulldozed their cuts through, and failed to listen to our suggested changes and savings to pay for them.”

“I feel particularly strongly about the part night street lighting, which is due to hit Stevenage later this year. It may be OK in some rural areas, but for large parts of the urban areas of the county, like Stevenage, it needs to be more flexible. A switch off at midnight is far too early when many people are still out and about or on their way home from the Leisure Park or elsewhere.”

“In the recent snow, I had complaints about the lack of salting near schools. In some cases, this resulted in schools closing with consequent damage to students’ education. These should be priority areas for treatment and our proposals would have allowed this.”

“We have highlighted the poor state of Hertfordshire’s roads and footways many times over the years and extra spending on them is urgently required if we are to avoid greater damage by using surfaces not fit for purpose, some of which are downright dangerous. There should be more of the available funds delegated to individual county councillors, so we can direct the repair work to where it is needed most in our areas.”

“We remain convinced that savings we have listed are both reasonable and achievable, given the political will – some highways spending is wasteful and HCC’s self publicity budget remains bloated.”

“Our proposals would have kept a zero council tax increase, which we support strongly, in view of the economic squeeze felt by many taxpayers. But they would have also allowed us to tackle some of the major problems experienced by Hertfordshire’s residents. Since the Conservative budget ignored these problems, we voted against it.”