Chelmsford plans to help vulnerable, fix congestion blocked by Conservatives

February 27, 2016 10:15 AM

Proposals that would tackle congestion, help small businesses and protect the vulnerable were blocked this week by Chelmsford's Conservative-run council. At the budget-setting meeting proposals by Liberal Democrat Leader Stephen Robinson were rejected by the Conservatives.

The Lib Dem proposals would have:

  • Addressed congestion by finding a third Park & Ride site and investing in cycling
  • Helped local shops in the west end of Chelmsford by having 30 minutes free parking
  • Protected the vulnerable by delivering long-term action to cut homelessness and build more affordable housing

Cllr Robinson made the following key points

This Conservative budget is for the "I'm alright Jack" group. Chelmsford Conservatives would rather spend money doing up council offices than providing housing for vulnerable people. This gross dereliction of duty nullifies any good things in this budget.

The Conservatives nationally, no longer held back by the Liberal Democrats in coalition, are back to their old ways - slashing support for councils and forcing them to put up council tax.

Chelmsford council taxpayers will pay 3.6% more, when incomes are only rising 1-2%.

For the ELEVENTH year in a row the council will underspend this year's budget. It keeps taking council tax off people and then not spending it.

They now have £16 million in reserves. This time next year it will be £20 million.

The Conservatives would have us believe that everything is rosy. Those of us fortunate to own our homes are doing OK. Those who rent in the private sector are having to pay more often for unsatisfactory homes. But more people (especially younger people) are priced out of the market.

Homelessness has shot up over the past five years, and attacks on the low paid will make things worse. Six years ago this council had 3 families in bed and breakfast; last year it was 50. In 2013 the total homelessness figure was 77. Now it is 276 and this budget assumes eight new homeless families EVERY SINGLE month.

On top of the millions already, this will cost the council an EXTRA £829,000 in the coming year.

Details of the Liberal Democrat Amendment to the Chelmsford City Council budget 2016/17

Proposer Cllr S Robinson.

  1. Purchase of more temporary housing, by borrowing £5 million and adding to the capital programme for housing; the costs of borrowing to be met by savings on housing benefit payments.
  2. Address the desperate shortage of affordable housing by preparing a business case for a Local Authority Owned housing company. Any costs associated with work on the business case to come from the Chelmsford Development Fund.
  3. £138,000 to the Chelmsford Local Highways Panel to progress priority projects now held back, which will be match funded by Essex County Council. Funded by spending the additional transitional relief from the Government, instead of adding it to the general fund balance.
  4. Acquire a site for a third Park & Ride car park (up to £150,000 from the Chelmsford Development Fund).
  5. Change the size of the cabinet to match the number of Directors (six) and add the saving of £33,000 to support for the voluntary sector especially those helping with homelessness and addiction.
  6. Provide free parking for 30 minutes in the west end of Chelmsford to support small shops, the estimated £32,000 to be met within the parking budget.

Added Cllr Robinson:

If you agree with us about acting on congestion and standing up for the vulnerable in our society,

then be one of the 20,000 plus people who have joined the Liberal Democrats recently.

Join the fightback