27 February 2020
Councillors from the Progressive Group on Exeter City Council have expressed their dismay after Labour councillors voted down their amendments to the Council’s budget last night. The group proposed to reopen public toilets and create two new officer posts; one to ensure Exeter City Council implement a city-wide plan to tackle the climate emergency and another to enforce planning conditions to protect the city's built and natural environment.
Council leader Phil Bialyk accused the Progressive Group of ‘continual knocking our city and what we do’ and of ‘cheap popularism’. All Labour councillors went on to vote down the group’s amended budget.
However, Kevin Mitchell, leader of the Progressive Group retorted:
“The amended budget which the Progressive Group put forward was fully costed and checked by the Chief Finance Officer. We are dismayed that Labour have rejected it.”
Green councillor, Diana Moore, who proposed the amended budget at the full council meeting last night, said:
“The council has declared a climate emergency but clearly Labour don’t fully grasp the implications of achieving the ambitious 2030 carbon neutral goal. Our perfectly reasonable and fully costed proposal would have seen a cross party working group, led by the Labour Portfolio Holder for Climate Change and supported by a new officer to ensure rapid action.”
“Instead Labour’s budget, while committing to a net biodiversity gain, will implement a string of cuts to the environment including green spaces and allotments.”
Cllr Kevin Mitchell accused Labour of not listening to residents’ concerns on planning:
“Residents are constantly contacting me about planning issues and concerns over developers carrying out work they do not have permission for or not abiding by planning conditions. Our proposals gave Labour an opportunity to agree to a Planning Enforcement Officer to help ensure public concerns are addressed. The fact they rejected this shows that enforcement of planning conditions, in the interests of Exeter residents, is not a priority for Labour.”
The Progressive Group proposals also called for free toilets in three shopping areas including St Thomas and Heavitree to be reopened, paid for by scrapping free parking in city centre car parks on Thursday; getting rid of free sandwiches for council meetings and cancelling a consultancy budget.Labour rejected reopening public toilets.
Councillor Michael Mitchell responded:
“Labour have flushed away the opportunity to restore vital facilities to the people of Exeter, but particularly the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people who are homeless. Our budget amendment may have gone down the pan but the Progressive Group will continue standing up for the interests of the people of Exeter and their environment.”
The three members of the Progressive Group attending the full council meeting voted against the Labour budget, while Tory councillors joined Labour in voting the budget through.
Cllr Moore commented:
“After years of Tory cuts to local government and with more to come, essential council services are being cut to the bone. So it is even more vital we focus resources into improving services that are so important to help people in their daily lives, and that includes the environment. “The residents of Exeter will draw their own conclusions from the fact that the Tories backed Labour’s budget. However, it clearly shows how critical is the need for an effective opposition in Exeter.
The Progressive Group are working to make sure more councillors are elected to increase our representation and influence on the council.”
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