Councillors storm out of budget meeting calling it “the end of democracy”

A BUDGET meeting to cut �43 million from the county’s budget descended into farce when two councillors stormed out branding it a “utter disgrace”.

The �848 million budget was agreed after a seven-hour session which saw Cambridgeshire County Councillors tussle over the particulars of the 686-page document.

But Cllrs Nichola Harrison, an independent, and Fiona Whelan, a former Lib Dem leader, left the meeting after the Tories cut short debate on an alternative budget.

Cllr Harrison shouted “what an utter disgrace, that’s the end of democracy” as she left the chamber at Shire Hall while Cllr Whelan said it was “a joke”.

Both Lib Dem and Labour amendments to the integrated plan then failed before the budget passed by 33 votes to 20.

Protesters gathered outside the building as leader of the council Nick Clarke’s “budget plan for success” was voted in.

“This is a plan which reflects the needs and aspirations of our county. This is a plan which is absolutely the right thing for the people in Cambridgeshire,” he said.

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“It doesn’t matter where you live in the county and what your circumstances are, this council is working hard for you.”

He highlighted an additional �6,4 million for adult social care, �20 million for superfast broadband and �90 million for highway maintenance as key points in the council’s plan.

With the budget comes a 2.95 per cent increase in council tax for the people of Cambridgeshire, a decision Cllr Clarke said was “tough” but right.

Opposition councillors rounded on Cllr Clarke’s “Cambridgeshire is open for business” motto saying the plans would neglect those worse off.

Lib Dem leader Kilian Bourke said: “It’s a budget that talks about growing the economy for all but cuts to the bus services mean people won’t be able to access those benefits.”

Cllr Peter Downes said the budget would increase the wealth gap in the county.

“The disparity in this county is growing. The best are getting better and the worst are suffering from getting worse, and that is something that none of us can stand by and do nothing about,” he said.

Leader of the Labour group Cllr Tariq Sadiq echoed the sentiment about the “yawning chasm between those who work and the unemployed”.

The budget - which will come into force on April 1 - has set aside some �630 million for capital projects over the next five years including Cambridge Science Park Station, the new town of Northstowe and the Ely bypass.