It would be great to meet and discuss the issues which are important to you. So I'm holding an informal social evening at my home in Surbiton.
Date: Wednesday 10th April from 7pm
Bus stop - K2, K1, K71, 281
Best wishes Councillor Sharron Sumner
Thank you Mr Mayor.
Can I say I am delighted to give my first speech as a Green councillor – particularly since we've had powerful contributions from local people about the lack of priority this administration is giving to air quality, sustainability and ecology.
Why is that? It's because this budget is written by the officers, for the officers.
It's a budget that raises council tax by 5% - the maximum allowed, but doesn't use it to save front line services – it sticks it in the Guildhall piggy bank – no doubt to pay for the next set of pet projects handed down by officers from up high.
It's a budget for fat cat bureaucrats:
– £1.4 million a year for the chief executive's office
– £300,000 golden goodbye for the previous chief executive
– £120,000 for a new tier of neighbourhood bureaucrats
– Another new assistant director and payrises for senior staff and – of course councillors
And who is paying for this?
The children of our borough
Who - for the sake of £240,000 – less than Cllr Green's hasty payoff to the previous Chef Exec - will see four children's centres axed.
Our children will continue to suffer from the effects of dirty air – this budget of 166 lines which is claimed – and I quote – to “put air quality high on the agenda” mentions air quality on just three!
There are – I agree – 2 other related proposals – switching the mayor's limo to electric (which I wholeheartedly support) and parking charges.
And our children will suffer because this administration – like the last one - is proposing to steal money from school budgets to pay for special educational needs – pitting child against child and parent against parent in an obscene race to squeeze already struggling schools even further.
Returning to the issue of parking charges – I can't support this partial and ill thought out proposal. Yes - I support the principle of making those driving the most polluting cars pay a bit more as a disincentive. But there has to be a carrot as well as a stick.
That's why I've been arguing any increases in revenue gained from pollution related parking charges should be ring fenced into a fund to crack down on pollution – car free days, walk to school schemes, no idling zones, promoting the car scrappage scheme – or even like Bristol City Council do - helping low income families with the costs of MOTs and car servicing to reduce their emissions.
Instead this Council hides behind the narrow and limited vision of its officer corps taking what could be a good idea and turning it into yet another way to fill the Guildhall piggy bank.
After four years of Conservative administration this council and this budget needed a radical change of direction – with creative and innovative proposals to deal with the urgent issues.
Instead we have a budget of bureaucratic stodge – designed to feather the nest of the fat cat bureaucrats in this building.
The last few weeks have seen turbulent times in British politics with the establishment parties starting to split apart. Politics is in flux – here in Kingston just as much as across the country.
So I say to members on the Lib Dem benches – if you are as embarrassed with this budget as I am – if you share my belief in its lack of vision and if you want to see a budget that puts the people of this borough first and starts to lay out a sustainable future for our children – then channel the courage shown by those MPs. Reject councillor Green's budget and join me here on the green benches.