THE FINAL budget of the county council’s has been approved unanimously but not without spirited debate about how some of the money could be better spent.
Cumbria County Council’s last ever budget for the 2022/23 financial year was approved unanimously by members yesterday.
Presenting his budget, deputy leader Peter Thornton expressed the importance of setting up their successors for success.
Cllr Thornton, said: “It’s not a council coming to an end, it’s a council being transferred, all be it in two halves and our services will all operate in exactly the same way on April 1 2023 as on March 31.
“That’s why we’ve got the five year medium term financial plan. What is the point of a five plan when we will cease to exist in 14 months time?
“It’s because of the continuation and the new councils of Cumberland, and Westmorland & Furness will use this to construct their first budgets.”
Cllr Thornton said: “So councillors, we ask ourselves, what legacy are we going to be living these two new councils? We will be leaving a strong financial legacy with a balanced budget, adequate reserves and an achievable savings programme.”
The budget includes a freeze on the portion of council tax which pays for services but a 2 per cent rise in the portion covering adult social care.
Cllr Thornton said: “We have received additional funding in recognition of the ongoing financial pressures around children and adult social care, inflationary pressures on both pay and non pay costs and specific funding for additional responsibilities and burdens.
“However, just on Tuesday this week we found out that county and unitary councils right across England are to receive 40 per cent less funding for highways than they did two years ago, a reduction of £480 million.”
The Conservative Group successfully proposed additional funding to improve the county’s roads.
Cllr Hilary Carrick, leader of the Conservative Group said: “In addition to supporting the proposed freeze in council tax, I also support the proposed allocation of a one-off sum of money to local committees for them to invest in environmental activities. However, the forthcoming year is unique, it’s the last year the county council will exist, so it’s essential that any projects or activities that are supported by this funding stream are actually completed by the end of the year.
Cllr Carrick said that even with extra funding, she is uncertain that some projects will be completed by the time Cumbria County Council ends in 2023.
“In January, Cumbria received extensive coverage in both the national and local press where we were named as ‘the pothole capital of England.’ This is unacceptable.”
The Conservative Group proposed that £1 million is moved from the Environment Fund “to address some of the worst potholes around the county.”
Leader of the council Stewart Young said: “The administration is going to make a proposal that in return for the leader of the Conservative Group withdrawing her amendment, we would be prepared to allocate £1.2 million equally across the Local Committees for pothole repairs.”
The budget was later passed unanimously.