Cambridgeshire cuts voted through after eventful marathon meeting

Cambridgeshire County Council approved its budget and plans for the next financial year - following a marathon session of the full council.

Plans to cut �50 million in 2011/12 and save up to �160 million over the next five years were approved.

In keeping with Government guidelines there will be no increase in the authority’s share of Council Tax.

Leader of the council Cllr Jill Tuck said: “Our residents along with the rest of the country are facing financial burdens – we know the effects of rising fuel prices, VAT and the cost of living in general.

“To balance the growing needs of our communities against the reduced level of funding available to us, we have to make some very tough decisions.

“Like all authorities across the country, we have been faced with exceptional cuts in funding.

“We have made tough yet fair decisions, linked to priorities, guided by what residents need. Our plan and this approach will see us through difficult years ahead. We will support individuals and communities and deliver what we promise.”

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Cllr John Reynolds, cabinet member for resources and performance, said: “The public understands the need for change. Many may not like the decisions we have to make. The challenges are enormous.”

Opposition parties were less than impressed with the plans.

County group Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Fiona Whelan said: “Trite phrases printed on glossy paper don’t help those who are losing out all round as they see their jobs disappearing and the basic services essential for their everyday life cut to the bone.”

The Lib Dem amendments to the budget offered almost �14 million more spent on priority services including saving �1.2 million by reducing council business miles, �60,000 by cutting office catering and a 3.4 per cent increase in council tax after the first year. Cllr David Jenkins said it could save �50 – 80 million.

Leader of the Labour Group Tariq Sadiq said: “Another broken promise, another shattered illusion. The Lib Dem manifesto torn up and cast to the wind like the metaphorical confetti that sprinkled the sky on the spring day in May when David Cameron and Nick Clegg completed their nuptials in the Number 10 rose garden.”

He called for the protection of rural bus routes and warned of the dangers of knock-on effects in the future if funding to youth services is cut.

The eight-and-a-half hour session saw passions run high and police remove protesters from the meeting.

The meeting which started at 10.30am was suspended three times following disruption from protestors and comments shouted from the public gallery at Shire Hall.

Dozens of placard waving protesters including Union members, students, resident and council staff demonstrated intermittently.

Social worker for Cambridgeshire County Council, Ricky D’Arcy, was among those outside Shire Hall.

He said: “The proposed cuts will hit the most needy people in the county.

“The people at the bottom of the pile are going to be hit the hardest and these are the people that need help the most.

“The councillors have to listen to us because we’re making a concerted effort for them to listen.”

Philip Clark who works in the council’s office for environment and community, said: “It’s not just about job losses it’s also about the environment.

“The councillors have decided that the environment is no longer a major cooperative objective.

“It’s not just about our jobs being in jeopardy we are wanting to make sure we protect Cambridgeshire for the future for both ourselves and our children.”