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Dudley Council budget approved after record breaking debate
2:31pm Tuesday 5th March 2013 in Local
DUDLEY councillors put in a record breaking performance at a marathon meeting to rubber stamp this year's budget.
A whopping 51 members of the authority spoke at last night's meeting of the full council during a three hour debate, despite the result of the vote never being in doubt.
The number of speakers was a record for the 72 member council as Tory and Labour politicians clashed over financial plans which include a council tax freeze.
Cllr Pete Lowe, finance spokesman for the Labour-led authority, said: "We are clear on direction and purpose - to offer an alternative voice to the Tory government for millionaires.
"The conduct of the administration in coalition government is putting Dudley in an intolerable position. We face significant cuts to services and increasing demand."
During his 19 minute speech cllr Lowe said the authority will be reviewing spending on senior management to divert £1m to frontline services as the council looks for £5m in savings during the next financial year.
He also announced the authority will be spreading collection of council tax and business rates over 12 months rather than ten months and reviews will continue into how the council can make more than £20m in savings during the following two years.
The meeting also heard the council plans to offset some cuts while it builds up reserves, to around £17m, to ease the pain in future years however 18 full time job losses are earmarked for 2013.
Tory finance spokesman, cllr David Blood, was quick to defend the coalition.
He said: "It is the mess Labour left, the coalition has been able to move us in a better direction."
The Dudley Conservatives' new leader, cllr Patrick Harley, hit out at plans to protect Dudley residents from cuts in housing benefit support after the results of the council's Big Question consultation gave this a low priority.
Cllr Harley also attacked the Labour group for abstaining in previous votes for Conservative budgets which included a council tax freeze.
He said: "I see a traditional socialist budget, we welcome the survey where the majority of people said they want benefit cuts - you have done the opposite.
"We welcome the freeze on council tax, we will take responsibility in control or opposition, we won't sit on our hands."
The Conservative group voted with Labour to back the budget, with cllr Will Duckworth from the Green Party the only councillor to vote no.
After the meeting cllr Harley said: "It would be churlish to vote against it, we support tax cuts but there are parts of the budget where we fundamentally disagree, like childrens' centres and potholes."