Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Council's Budget Passed; Vote Followed Heated Meeting

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Council's Budget Passed; Vote Followed Heated Meeting

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Lawson? 0191 201 6344 ? ruth.lawson@ncjmedia.co.uk

NORTH Tyneside Council's fiercelydebated budget was finally passed following a three-hour meeting last night.

After much controversy, the budget for 2013/14 was agreed following a heated meeting in the borough's council chambers.

An amended budget put forward by Labour councillors, which included a PS1,000 saving in council tax requirement for mayor Linda Arkley''s original proposed budget, was passed by a 39 to 17 majority.

Jim Allan, leader of the council''s Labour group, led an objection to the original proposals which they say ignored a "PS20m shortfall" in the council''s budget.

Coun Allan said: "The Labour group believes that in pursuing the issue of the massive central Government cuts through cost-cutting, without regard to a council plan for the next five years, places the cabinet in a position many miles away from the needs of the people of North Tyneside."

The party raised concerns over issues including outsourcing services, consultancy and agency costs, and welfare reforms.

Mayor Arkley faced strong criticism from councillors and was accused of targeting the more vulnerable members of the community with a reduction in respite services for disabled people and proposed increases in costs for school meals and the meals on wheels service.

Coun Allan added: "This council has been hollowed out while the rest of the borough has to deal with a double-dip recession."

He also accused the current Conservative administration - which is in the minority - of not being open and said that if Labour take over at the next election in May they will take a very different approach.

Coun David Corkey, who represents the Chirton ward, added: "This budget is in an envelope and Labour''s commitment is to readdress the shape of the budget.

"I support this Labour objection and I look forward to a majority administration in May and a reconfiguration of this budget when it happens."

But mayor Arkley defended her time in the council and criticised the Labour group's "personal attacks".

She said: "I'm disappointed at some of the very personal attacks I have heard this evening and I think some people should search their own minds about that. …

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