WIRRAL’S ruling Labour group has denied failing its poorest constituents while it freezes “non essential” spending to deal with “unprecedented” budget problems.
The ruling party came under sustained attack from Tories and Lib Dems over the decision at a meeting of the full council.
But council leader Phil Davies said Wirral, along with other councils, faces an “unprecedented” budget gap due to Government cuts.
During the debate at Wallasey town hall Cllr Davies said they had frozen spending after being told the council faces a £17million deficit this year and £100 million over the next three years.
The council is currently carrying out a massive consultation on the budget, asking residents to identify their priorities for spending ahead of setting next year’s budget.
Although the opposition groups acknowledged the budget problem needs to be dealt with they accused Labour of failing to be open and transparent in how they approached it.
Conservative group leader Cllr Jeff Green accused Labour of blaming the Government saying most of the £100million deficit came not from government cuts but council overspending.
Lib Dem Mark Johnston said his analysis of the finances suggested the authority did not need to freeze spending, while his colleague Cllr Stuart Kelly accused the Labour group of acting in secret.
He said: “The need for secrecy soon became apparent as we learnt the cabinet’s definition of none critical expenditure. 20mph zones – out, neighbourhood funds – out, the £250 enhancement for low paid employees – out.
“We also learnt Labours definition of critical expenditure – expanding ‘HR’ by £200,000, appointing three new strategic directors at a potential cost of £300,000.
“And now I hear we are to appoint a consultant to help define “organisational values” at God knows what cost.
“I’ll tell you something about the values of an organisation that freezes spending on road safety, low pay, and community projects. It has no values.”
However, Cllr Davies denied they had acted in secret saying full reports had been to an open meeting of the ruling cabinet and accused the other parties of proposing “the economics of the mad house”.
He said an extra grant now meant £20,000 would be available to area forums for road safety schemes such as 20mph zones, but added “decisive action” was needed and the other parties could not say how they would fund the policies they want.