On Thursday evening the council's draft budget proposals were discussed at some length by the Economic & Environmental Scrutiny Committee.
The Lib Dems proposed introducing limited free swimming for the over 65s, re-launching the Advantage Card and offering council tax rebates to special constables. It was agreed that some health funding will be allocated for free swimming for over 65's for one day a week for 2 years with a review in 18 months, agreed that we will re launch the Advantage Card which can be accommodated within the existing budget and have agreed to request a paper on the financial and practical ramifications of offering council tax rebates to special constables. Who says that the Conservatives do not listen?
The Independent Party contribution from Martin Terry and Ron Woodley was little short of amusing. Cllr Terry confirmed what the majority of us already knew that after nine years on the council he did not understand how to read the accounts. It would seem that Cllr Terry also has difficulty in understanding an agenda after throwing a mini strop when he was prevented from asking a question on an item which wasn't on the agenda.
In a budget in excess of £450 Million where difficult choices have had to be made to save £11 Million. Cllr Woodley concentrated all his efforts on a minor issue of car parking charges in Thorpe Ward which was agreed last year without any comment from him and is not proposed to change this year.
Cllr Woodley also tried to raise the old chestnut that borrowing out of control. When challenged by the leader on whether he would cut investment in the pier or cliffs stabilisation to reduce borrowing the silence was deafening
It was also raised a chuckle when Cllr Woodley claimed that he was a Conservative. I also had a chuckle when he signed the nomination papers of the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate in 2010 and when he claims he is an Independent.
Also called into scrutiny was the Independent report on the City Beach scheme which was approved by cabinet on the 26th January. It was a very good debate and the report passed without amendment. As the Lib Dems also agreed the report in full and accept that the City Beach scheme is safe I hope they do the honourable thing and remove their appalling news item posted on the Southend Lib Dem website in June last year which they claim that the City Beach scheme puts peoples lives in danger. You can not have it both ways!