Conservative councillors were labelled “Trump-like” when they called for a focus on “value for money”.
The comments came in response to six examples cited by the Tories as examples of how the Greens and Labour had wasted taxpayers’ millions.
Councillor Samer Bagaeen said that money saved through the proposed value for money programme could be spent on things like ridding the city of graffiti.
He said that value for money was the relationship between economy, efficiency and effectiveness which all residents had the right to expect.
The Conservative motion listed six items that were claimed as examples of waste. They were
- the £10 million cost of “insourcing” the council’s housing repair service
- the £1 million overspend on home to school transport
- the £3 million overspend at the Cityclean rubbish and recycling service
- the £800,0000 lost by closing Madeira Drive and creating the A259 cycle lane
- the £3.3 million cost resulting from underpaying some school staff
- the £1,200 a day charge for an interim housing chief over eight months
Councillor Bagaeen said: “Some of our residents – council tax payers – will often judge the council’s value for money performance by looking at the level of council tax and how much it has risen year on year.
“Other residents will look at housing rents, comparing rises to inflation to see if the charge is rising faster than government guidelines.
“They will also compare rises with other councils’ rent rises to see if they are similar, lower or higher.
“As a council, we can look at our spending per head of population compared to other councils and also check to see that our spending is consistent with priorities and needs.”
He said that 10 years ago the first Green administration had agreed to a similar cross-party policy called the City Deserves Transformation.
But Green councillor Leo Littman said that the housing repair service would cost £10 million whether it was insourced or outsourced.
Conservative councillor Joe Miller said that a council report had said that £10 million was the extra cost of bringing the housing repair service in-house.
Councillor Littman also accused the Tories of “extraordinarily inaccurate and downright made-up claims” just because they were unhappy about the Greens and Labour winning more votes than them in the 2019 local elections.
He said: “It is almost Trumpian in its ignoring of the most basic of facts. It is, in the words of the eternal bard, ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’”
Labour councillors Daniel Yates said that the Tories were not trying to save money but “stir up public outrage and dissatisfaction”.
He said that he was sad at their demise into “ranks of cranks” and added: “What’s more is my sadness at seeing our local Conservative group following them down that rabbit hole of half-truths – half-baked and half-dreamlike opinions that surely our city doesn’t need more of.
“This motion and its ‘so-called’ supporting statement is little more than a budget amendment swaddled in Trump-like levels of financial illiteracy.”
He accused the Conservatives of ignoring a vote by some of their own councillors for a £38 million “doughnut on a stick” on the seafront – the i360 – which many in Labour had opposed.
Councillor Yates said that bringing housing repairs in-house gave the council greater control, £3 million had been spent on improving waste collection and the new cycle lanes were funded by the government and did not reduce the amount of support for bus services and concessionary fares.
Councillor Miller said: “Lots of people pay money each month, over £150, for council services through their council tax.
“In our view, they deserve to know how every pound is spent and spent well.
“If Councillor Yates disregards the motion, he is disregarding a huge number of people’s concern for the blight that is graffiti.
“Covid has resulted in new ways of working and there are savings to be made from buildings and from more working from home – and that’s what we ask for: a programme to examine those potential savings and work-styles too.
“There have been apologies previously about some of these financial occurrences and these are requests (to explore) how those similar occurrences can be avoided again.”
Green and Labour councillors defeated the Conservative motion, along with two independents, former Labour councillors Nikkie Brennan and Kate Knight.
Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh abstained and the fourth independent, former Conservative leader Tony Janio, backed the motion along with his former colleagues.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.