Streetlights stay off as county council sets budget

By Kevin Unitt Wednesday 06 February 2013 Updated: 11/02 08:41

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Warwickshire County Council's headquarters at Shire Hall in Warwick. (s)

THERE were u-turns but streetlights will remain off at night after Warwickshire County Council set its budget for the coming year.

The ruling Tories agreed to freeze the authority's council tax demands for 2013/14.

Key changes in policy, hammered out amid pressure from the council's Liberal Democrat and Labour groups, included two major u-turns.

They include the removal of charges for computer use in county libraries, four years after they were introduced in the face of much public anger.

And passenger transport assistants have also been restored on school buses across the county after provoking upset and outrage among parents.

The council's Conservative leader Alan Farnell, said: “We recognise that families’ budgets are being squeezed in these constrained times and we remain committed to playing our part in helping them while providing residents with value for money.

“We have been able to keep council tax at the same level by making extensive savings, where possible.”

Among proposals in the budget were the £9 million relocation of Leamington Fire Station, an additional £7.6m put into roads over the next three years, new investment in Kenilworth's proposed railway station and a further £2.5 million earmarked for an upgrade of Junction 12 of the M40. Pedestrianisation of Rugby town centre will also be boosted by a further £550,000.

No change to the switch-off of streetlights at night was made, though the Labour group had put forward a motion to make an extra £500,000 available – partly generated through cutting members allowances – to turn them back on.

June Tandy, leader of the Labour Group, said the party had always been against the policy describing it as a “debacle and shambles” with little public support.

But the Lib Dem group described the suggestion as “deeply cynical electioneering” and a “flavour of the month” proposal which would mean having to write off £1.6 million already invested in scheme.

They instead tabled a motion calling for an urgent review of the part night street lighting programme to be brought forward to May.

Lib Dem group leader Jerry Roodhouse, said of the budget: “The Tories have demonstrated weak leadership and bad judgement on many important issues affecting the people of Warwickshire, and have run out of ideas other than cut, cut and cut.”

The county council precept represents around 80 per cent of the overall annual tax demand, the rest comprising precepts from the police, district and borough councils, and parish and town councils.

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