Conservatives unveil a budget for families, communities and safer highways

Coventry Conservatives have announced plans to inject an extra £669,000 into services delivered by the Council next year. It comes as Councillors prepare to debate the authority’s budget for the next year at a meeting of all councillors on Tuesday 19th February. The ambitious ‘alternative budget’ would protect and improve the performance of key front line services. It would be balanced by tackling waste and inefficiency.

A key priority for Conservatives is to protect the city’s libraries from closure. Many are now community led making them dependent on help from volunteers. To strengthen them a new ‘Community Library Development Fund’ will be announced to offer support where required.

They will also announce a raft of measures to improve the standard, and safety, of highways and pavements in the city. This includes additional funding to tackle pot holes, increased funding for road safety schemes and the purchase of another ANPR enabled car. These measures would enable the Council to repair highways more effectively, approve more requests for traffic calming and enable better traffic enforcement.

There’s also help for the city’s struggling local high streets in the form of the new ‘Community High Street Challenge Fund’. From April, businesses and community groups would be able to apply for match funding to help improve the appearance of their local high street. Applications would be considered by a panel of experts before funding decisions were made.

Also to be announced in the alternative budget are additional resources to clean up Coventry as the City of Culture year approaches. This funding will allow the Council to hire more operatives and tackle fly-tipping - which has risen by 44% in recent years under Labour.

Another priority for Conservatives is Children’s Services, which still requires improvement after nearly nine years of Labour rule. With the local authority needing more places for looked after children, Conservatives will halve council tax for households across the city that currently foster children. This will help existing foster carers and could encourage more people to get involved.

There is also a pledge to restore ward forums, which were axed by Labour, where residents want them. This will restore accountability in politics and make councillors more accessible to residents.

To finance the programme Conservatives have identified savings of £669,000 while protecting front line services. The most radical proposal would see the Council move to all–out elections every four years and would end the practice of holding elections almost every year. They’d also reduce the amount of money spent on councillors’ allowances by reducing the size of the city's key decision making body, the Cabinet. They would scrap deputy cabinet members altogether. The amount of taxpayer's money given to the trades unions each year would be cut, and the secretive 'Policy Contingency Fund' administered by the Deputy Leader would be scrapped. The 'Citivision' publication would also be abolished with it being made available online instead.

The alternative budget will be moved by the Conservatives Shadow Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance and Resources Cllr Ken Taylor. Commenting on the proposals he said; “This budget tackles waste and vested interest, it diverts resources to front line service where they are needed most. For instance, it would help to keep local libraries open and improve Children’s Services. There would be help for our struggling high street and we would be able to improve the standard, and safety, of our highways too. It is a budget for the whole city and has been signed off by officers as deliverable, balanced and legally compliant. It represents a bold and ambitious plan for our future as a great city.”

Leader of the Conservative Group on Coventry City Council, Cllr Gary Ridley said; “While this failing Labour administration pleads poverty and moans about the Government we’ve got on with the job they should be doing. We have found extra money which won’t just safeguard vital services for the people of Coventry but actually improve them. Our alternative budget shows that a different way is possible if we are brave enough to take on vested interest. It shows that our ambition to make Coventry fairer, safer, cleaner and greener is possible and achievable – fitting of a City of Culture."