21 February 2024

Councillors react as budget is approved by Salisbury City Council

The proposed budget put forward to the council was approved at the Full Council meeting held at the Guildhall last night (Monday 17th January 2022).

Salisbury Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Victoria Charleston, presented the joint administration’s 2022/23 budget.

The budget, built in partnership between Liberal Democrat, Labour and independent councillors and presented at last night’s Full Council aims to:

  • Be a green budget
  • Be a fairer more inclusive budget that seeks to listen to residents’ concerns
  • Support the vitality of our city and our businesses.
  • And, above all, aims to be a responsible budget.

The decision was taken to keep the increase of the precept as low as possible – 48p a week on Band D houses – whilst meeting the desires of people in the city.

13 councillors approved the budget forming a majority, while all nine Conservative councillors voted against the proposed budget.

Today, Love Salisbury spoke to the Conservative group and the city council’s joint administration to hear their reactions to the approved budget.

The Conservative group on Salisbury City Council criticised the budget proposed by the three-way leadership calling it ‘all cost, no benefit’.

Cllr Charles McGrath, leader of the group, noted that the budget failed to deliver on promises made by the administration, made up of the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups and the independent Cllr Annie Riddle, and would lead to Salisbury taxpayers paying more for no real benefit.

Cllr McGrath said, “This budget sees council tax rise by 27% across the four years of this council. A Band D property paying £208 in 2021/22 will pay an astonishing £264.27 in 2024/5 – an increase of almost a third.

“And what do we get for that increase? No repaired pavements, no cleaner streets, no facilities and activities for young people, not even more spending on consultation about which Cllr Riddle was particularly vocal in last year’s election campaign. The proposed budget delivers nothing but will see hardworking Salisbury families lose more of the pound in their pockets with zero improvements to the services the City Council provides.”

“Instead of making our city better for the people who live in and visit it, the City Council leadership has decided to both spend money where it isn’t needed – on an overpriced sound system for the Guildhall – and cut spending where it is needed – on keeping city centre visitors safe.”

“It is a bad budget put forward by a leadership without a clue – and sadly a sign of things to come.”

The Conservative group announced in September their aspirations for the Council, including investing more in pavement repair and maintenance, encouraging sustainable transport and funding more community events.

In response to the Conservative group’s comments, Cllr Annie Riddle, speaking on behalf of the city council’s joint administration said, “We know this will be a hard year for many people. Household bills are soaring, along with National Insurance and rent for social housing. Our bills are rising, too. We have kept our precept as low as we can whilst trying to meet the expectations of the people who elected us.

“Last night we made a genuine offer to the Conservatives to rejoin our administration and to work together in a spirit of co-operation as volunteer councillors serving our city. We didn’t want them to leave in the first place. It wasn’t our decision, but once they took it there was no way they could expect to continue chairing decision-making committees.

“Their leader Cllr McGrath chose to go on Facebook to announce his rejection of this offer, which remains open.”

In response to Cllr McGrath’s comments regarding the budget, Cllr Riddle commented, “The Conservatives wanted to splash out on a new skatepark. The cost would be hundreds of thousands of pounds. Cllr McGrath walked away from our shared administration after we said it was not a priority. But there was never any money for it.

“We are spending £20,000 – still a large sum – on repairing what’s broken in the skatepark we’ve already got. Ours is a safety-first approach. If we get any large sums in from developers for community facilities, we’ll consult local people about their priorities for investment.

“We really appreciate the job that Venture Security do, particularly in dealing with street drinkers and anti-social behaviour. We are well aware that they dealt with 2,600 incidents in the city centre last year. Their contract is funded for the coming year. Then it expires. So, as with any other contract, we will be reviewing it.

“We have a Police Commissioner who is also raising his tax precept and has pledged to improve policing in Salisbury. We need to see what this means in practice before making any decision on how to spend our limited resources.”

Cllr Charleston further commented, “The budget acknowledges the difficult financial constraints we all face over the coming year with inflation and cost of living rising against a backdrop of continued pandemic uncertainty.

“It is our ambition to offer Salisbury a more well-rounded council whilst keeping costs as low as possible for households.”

Written by
Beth Doherty
View all articles
Written by Beth Doherty