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Redbridge Council admits using Labour party ideas after heated budget debate

Friday, March 7, 2014
5:35 PM

The gloves came off at a council meeting last night as hotly-debated budget proposals were put to the vote.

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The proximity of May’s election could be felt as councillors took swipes at other members while staking out their parties’ ground on core issues.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration’s revenue budget was carried along with its amendments amid allegations from Labour that their ideas had been “copied”.

Changes recommending free 30 minute parking periods, enhanced powers for environmental enforcement officers and weekly street sweeping seemed to be identical.

While Labour proposed universal free bulky waste collection to tackle fly tipping, the coalition limited it to pensioners, disabled people and the unemployed.

The Labour group’s amendment, which funded the changes through the abolition of area committees and regional planning committees, was defeated.

But the administration’s proposals, using funding redistribution, borrowing cost adjustments and reserves, were carried.

Labour group leader Cllr Jas Athwal accused the Conservatives of “copy and paste gone mad,” citing a spelling mistake that appeared in both parties’ documents.

But council and Conservative leader Cllr Keith Prince claimed that if Labour councillors supported their own proposals they should have voted with the administration rather than against it.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Prince admitted his party had taken on the opposition’s ideas.

He said: “We took the items we thought were acceptable and of course we are not going to ask officers to re-write the report.”

He claimed the difference was that Labour would fund it by “destroying local democracy” but Cllr Athwal slammed the administration for dipping into reserves ahead of a “tough economic time” and looming government funding cuts.

Cllr Athwal said his party voted against their proposals, which were sent to the Recorder days before the meeting, when tabled by the administration because of the use of reserves.

Several Tories and Lib Dems fiercely defended area committees as a vital way to engage with residents and keep local decisions in the hands of councillors who knew areas best.

But citing average attendances of 24 people, Labour argued the system was not inclusive or cost-effective.

The council also approved a council tax freeze at the meeting at Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford.

See our website for more coverage later and buy Thursday’s paper for a breakdown of figures.

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