Greens thwarted over funds for Shirley shops - as Solihull set to pay an extra 3.9pc council tax - The Solihull Observer

Greens thwarted over funds for Shirley shops - as Solihull set to pay an extra 3.9pc council tax

Solihull Editorial 2nd Mar, 2020 Updated: 2nd Mar, 2020   0

GREEN councillors say they are ‘disappointed’ a million-pound fund for Shirley failed to make it through Solihull Council’s budget.

The opposition group had hoped £1 miilion from the development of the Powergen site on Stratford Road could breathe new life into Shirley’s shopping.

But their amendment was left out of this year’s financial plan, agreed by the council on February 27.

The Green’s Shirley campaigner Antony Lowe said: “Shirley high street was named the ‘charity shop capital’ of the UK by the Daily Mail last year. It’s really struggling and it’s only reasonable that some of the money that’s coming from all the new developments in Shirley go to supporting Shirley and making sure it’s a great place to live.

“Our £1m fund would have achieved that, so it’s really disappointing to see the Conservatives block it.”

A Green amendment to include more support for job training also failed to make it into the budget, where the Conservative administration hiked council by almost four per cent.

The inflation-busting increase will see an extra 3.9 per cent added to bills, putting a Band D house up by £53 to £1411.

Solihull Council increased rates as it deals with more demand for social care and children’s services – often the most expensive part of the council.

An overall budget of £159 million was also agreed for the coming financial year.

“Challenging times” – leader

Coun Ian Courts.

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of the Council, said: “While our budget has increased this year, we continue to face challenging times to deliver council services.

“This is particularly the case for adult social care and children’s services where yet again we are seeing an increase in demand for these services.

“There is a balance to be struck between the potential impact of a higher increase on council tax payers and of a lower increase on the services we deliver to residents.

“This settlement is a prudent response to the situation we face and is in line with our medium term financial strategy.

“I also want to draw attention to the reduction of carbon emissions and action on climate change becoming a central plank in our future financial planning as we work towards our target of being net carbon zero by 2030.

“We are committed to investing in the borough wherever possible and are making a £2m investment in public realm and environmental improvements.”

The council tax rise of 3.9 per cent includes two per cent to help meet the costs of providing adult social care, as permitted by government.

A budget and savings were also agreed up to 2023, the borough added.

Full retention of business rates will contribute £1 million to the council’s coffers.

But Birmingham Airport’s dividend paid to the borough is set to be £111,000 lower than expected, and reserves will pay for the extension of free parking hours in Knowle, costing £21,000.

Council leaders pledged no new cuts to adults’ or children’s services by putting £2 million into the children’s services reserve.

Scrap water coolers and agenda papers, say Greens

James Burn

Coun James Burn, Leader of the Opposition said: “Solihull is one of the most unequal places to live in the country, with more and more areas slipping into poverty. The gap in life expectancy between the wealthiest and least well off areas is now 12 years.

“The council has, yet again, totally ignored this issue in it’s financial plan.

“We know that people who are struggling financially most, use council services most, so it makes economic sense to help those people to get on – which will make Solihull a better place for everyone, and save the Council a huge sum of money.

“Our ‘fairness commission’ would have achieved that by listening to evidence from experts, but sadly the Conservatives chose to ignore the fact their approach needs changing, and throw hundreds of thousands of pounds and years of lives away every year instead.

“We need to help and assist businesses in Solihull to take more action on climate change . We have identified sensible ways to fund more action here – for example, by getting rid of £13,000 worth of water coolers and asking staff to use taps instead, and by asking Councillors to use the iPads they already have to access their council papers rather than scandalously spending nearly £20,000 on needless printing and postage.

“That way we can use the money they currently waste on cutting down trees to make sure we see more trees planted over the next three years, that will make Solihull look even better but will also absorb huge amounts of carbon and make our air cleaner. I cannot understand why the Conservatives would block this.”

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