Thursday, 26 February 2009

Budget Debate Assumes Greater Significance

Another lengthy council session reached no decision on Reading's annual budget and lead to warnings from Chief Financial Officer David Peasley that failure to reach agreement could see services temporarily halted.

Council Leader Cllr Jo Lovelock (Labour) repeated declaredly her impatience with the refusal of the town's eight Liberal Democrats to be 'bounced' into supporting her minority administration.

Conservative leader Cllr Andrew Cumpsty also pushed for a more polarised debate saying that the parties are too far apart to make negotiations worthwhile.

LibDems defended their position on pragmatic grounds, stating that they remain open to negotiation (and what lengths they have gone to achieve it) but added that agreement is possible only when parties are prepared to make concessions.

Councillors will now will reconvene for a third time on Monday evening as each side battles to influence the direction for the next generation. The meeting starts at 6.30pm and is open to the public.

In the meantime Conservatives have launched a press campaign to appeal to the public over the heads of elected representatives while they attempt to bring about the collapse of the current regime.

Oranjepan asks:
Why are Reading's Conservatives attempting to mount an undemocratic coup to bring about tax restraint while their party colleagues across the county are doing the exact opposite?

Update: Janestheone throws a couple of curve balls.

LibDem Cllr Warren Swaine accuses the tories of lying to the public and issues a rallying call to stand up to the bullying tactics of the larger two parties.

An intemperate Reading Chronicle describes the delicate process of negotiating under a minority administration as 'farcical'.


Click here for a full comparison of Council Tax rises in the different local authorities across Berkshire.


  1. I think the time has come for Cllr Epps to grow up and stop playing politics with the lives of hard working families in Reading.

    His posturing on the Council Tax issue is very clearly motivated by the desire to position the Liberal Party as power brokers as opposed to doing what’s best for the electorate.

    We live in a time where many families in this area are having to make very difficult decisions with regard to their own finances, forcing them to forgo such things as a summer holiday or a treat for their children so as they can keep bread on the table.

    I find the notion of any form of council tax increase at this time as laughable, and one which is well above the present rate of inflation insulting. The council, like the rest of us must learn to live within it’s means and not expect it’s electorate to pick up the tab.

    However, we have all become very accustomed to the fact that RBC are completely detached from any sort of reality and so expect nothing better. What I will not accept, is the attempt by so called Politicians to make PR capital for personal gain at our expense.

  2. Good point Tyler. Put it better than I could!

  3. I think you're being unfair, Tyler. The first half of your comment is not supported by the evidence.

    Please feel free to digest Cllr Epps own description of what lengths they have gone to achieve agreement.

    If you also follow the other links I've provided from different perspectives that report is confirmed by multiple sources.

    So aren't you being just a little bit lazy in attacking the nearest available target?

  4. Oranjepan

    Cllr Epps has made himself a target by his actions.

    Trying to reach any type of agreement with the Labour Group on any type in Council Tax increase at this time is simply not in the best interests of the vast majority.

    High time for some united opposition on this issue. Libs & Tories need to bury the hatchet ( or at least put it to one side for a time & bring down this,'busted flush,' Labour Administration.

    From what I understnd, getting any real information out of Peasley & his cronies is next to impossible for any of the opposition Cllrs. If Labour can't get a budget through then their position as the ruling group becomes untenable.

    If we can get this done, Peasley & co will fold like a pack of cards, the Libs & Tories will then get access to the information that they need & hopefully we can get financial measures in place that direct money to where it is most needed and cut out much of the waste which I for one am sure is there.

  5. Tyler....

    Let me spell out precisely what you are asking me to do.

    You are asking me to refuse to negotiate with the Labour Group. In that case, Reading Borough Council will not set a budget, which will result in the effects you see described in the Evening Post. Those effects are severe, and used to result in councillors being personally surcharged as it would become our personal responsibility. All services would effectively become suspended.

    The Conservatives have declared they will not be tabling a proposal, and will not support ours. Why they have failed to table a proposal is for them to answer.

    I am told that the Council would be formally advised against proposing a budget which makes further unspecified savings. The Liberal Democrat alternative budget has pushed the envelope as far as we are allowed to go.

    As for Labour, they regard any compromise as blackmail.

    I am happy to discuss alternative solutions with either Labour or the Conservatives. And to be fair, recent Council meetings have seen Liberal Democrats voting with Conservatives at least as often as with Labour. (See Academy Sport, action on environmental enforcement which came from Scrutiny, the Gaza debate, etc.)

    I have said publicly in my Budget speech that we have not had access to anything like the degree of information that the Labour Cabinet has. This has been confirmed to me.

  6. Tyler, I appreciate the logic of your argument but Cllr Cumpsty has publicly explained his refusal to negotiate, so it is wishful thinking to think he is even prepared to consider creating an anti-Labour alliance.

    I'm grateful for Cllr Epps for coming forward to make his case, and I would hope if Cllr Cumpsty is also a Reader that he would do the same. I would be interested to hear how he answers the charge.

  7. Orangepan

    On your last point I agree.

    Bring on Cllr Cumpsty, let him join the debate.


"Reading List... is fantastic, it could help revolutinise politics in Reading"
Matt Blackall

Matt Brady

Adrian Windisch

Reading Geek Night

"A bloggers digest of the Berkshire blogosphere"

"An easily accessible collection of Berkshire's excellent blogs"
The Cookham Blogger

"An excellent digest of the thoughts of local bloggers"
Reading Guide