Council Budgets allow us to put Liberal Values into practice

Lib Dems are addressing the Cost of Living, providing community level services and decision making and Greener boroughs.

Next Wednesday, the Southwark Liberal Democrat group will be presenting our Alternative Budget at full council. Being a Labour-facing Liberal Democrat opposition in Inner London comes with certain challenges, but I’m proud we are demonstrating that it is possible to put forward a credible, Liberal alternative.

After a decade of Tory cuts and underfunding of Local Government, all councils are under immense strain. We’re no different, but Southwark Labour’s proposals make cuts in all the wrong places. They’re cutting social care, library services, and a host of other ill-thought through areas. Southwark’s own independent Equalities Panel has called out the Labour council for the negative impact their budget will have on the most vulnerable.

At the same time Town Hall waste runs rampant. We have sky-high bills on catering and stationary, perks for Labour bosses and bizarre amounts of money earmarked for vanity projects. This is whilst squirrelling away millions in pointless reserves and not leveraging income from Southwark’s world-class status.

Southwark Liberal Democrats are putting money where it matters. We are not just freezing council tax for those most in need, but going further to provide vital financial support for those currently in receipt of council tax reduction. We’re also reversing all of Labour’s callous cuts to social care.

By cutting waste and sweating our assets, we can put money back into people’s pockets and vital services.

Southwark’s high-profile housing failures often stem from a fundamental lack of communication with residents, so we’re fixing it. When Labour took control over a decade ago, they, typically for Labour, centralised and de-personalised customer service. We’re calling for a return to a system of “one stop shops” embedded within communities. It’s also why we’re also calling for their new spin doctor costing £150k to be scrapped – no one asked for it, and it won’t help residents.

As Liberal Democrats we also believe that tackling the climate emergency must be a top priority. Like Sadiq Khan, Southwark Labour talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. Half of their much-touted climate capital fund hasn’t even been spent. The clue is in the name, it’s a Climate EMERGENCY! With Labour turning their backs on the climate emergency nationally and locally, it’s clear that only the Liberal Democrats are taking this seriously.

We’re taking that money and spending it now, creating a new retrofit grant for thousands of households to use to make their homes warmer, cheaper, and greener. But it doesn’t stop there – we’re also canceling wasteful capital spend elsewhere, and creating a £5 million Community Climate Fund to allow residents to decide how to spend on the climate initiatives that are important to them. To support the voluntary sector as they fill gaps left by under-funded council services, we’re setting up a ‘voluntary funds’ to accept donations from residents and distribute those to organisations and charities that make a difference to the lives of vulnerable people. Just like Lib Dem-run Richmond upon Thames’ ‘Voluntary Fund’ which has raised over £175,000 over the past two years.

This is what Liberal Democrats stand for in local government. Putting communities first, going greener faster, and demanding better for local residents.

* Cllr Victor Chamberlain is a Liberal Democrat member of the Local Infrastructure and Net Zero Board at the LGA and is the Leader of the Opposition on Southwark Council.

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