Merton's Lib Dems Condemn Council Cutback Plans

Amendments proposed on eve of meeting

Local Liberal Democrats have now criticised Merton borough council's ruling Labour Party for its controversial package of planned cuts.

The council is proposing to save £44 million during the next three years with a package of cutbacks.

Last week the Conservative opposition said many of the cuts were unecessary when it said the council has a surplus of £12 million.

Now Merton's Liberal Democrat Councillors have criticised Labour for refusing to concede "obviously false savings" despite multi-million pound reserves.

The Lib Dem Group have proposed amendments to the Council’s budget which would reverse cuts to transport services for vulnerable residents, providers of social care services such as meals on wheels, and restore the first 20 minutes of free parking.

Lib Dem leader Iain Dysart (left) said: "The cost of not-implementing these cuts is a well-under £1m this year – a fraction of the Council's substantial reserves – and yet the Labour group is pushing ahead with these damaging cuts for purely political reasons.

"These cuts are likely to seriously impact on the well being of local people and businesses, and quite possibly cost more in the longer term.

"The Liberal Democrats, of course, recognise that the Council must make savings during these difficult economic times, but cuts must be chosen carefully so that they do not unduly disadvantage the vulnerable and future generations, and they do not impact on already struggling local businesses.

"We are calling on Labour to utilise just a small portion of the Borough's multi-million pound reserves to reverse these damaging policies.

"To hoard reserves when local people are struggling in order to save up for a pre-election give away is indefensible. It is time this Labour administration stopped playing silly political games and stood up for the people of Merton."

Councillor Stephen Alambritis (left), leader of the Labour-controlled council, said last week: "Everyone knows these are difficult and austere times. The truth is, as most people know, the only alternative to spending less now is either Council Tax increases or making even deeper cuts later."

The budget will be set at a full council meeting at 7.15pm on Wednesday March 7.

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March 6, 2012