by Alan Dean on 26 February, 2017
Thursday’s budget-setting meeting was largely uncontroversial.
The main changes included an uplift in staff costs to make pay at Uttlesford (UDC) more competitive with pay at other councils; an as yet undefined attempt to improve customer service standards; a lot more money to keep the Local Plan on track. On the last point, planning is about £700,000 over budget this year to pay planning contract staff (who cost a lot more) because the planning department is so short of full-time professional people. The pay uplift plan will hopefully start to correct that gap.
The only suggested changes to the Conservative administration’s budget came from the Liberal Democrat group. The larger opposition group, Residents for Uttlesford, had nothing to offer the council.
The Lib Dems asked for more money for police community support officers to be shared with parish councils. This was agreed in principle by the Leader of the Council. The Lib Dems also asked for more to be spent by Uttlesford on supporting parish neighbourhood plan groups by improving technical support from professional planners at UDC. The council leader gave enthusiastic support for that proposal. In both cases it was agreed that details would be worked up later, so the budget figures were not amended at this stage. The third Lib Dem proposal was to create a £500,000 capital budget for a major infrastructure initiative or initiatives in the district. Conservative leader Howard Rolfe asked for specific project proposals to be put forward for consideration, whilst not yet amending the formal budget.
Anyway, the second opposition group once again demonstrated that it is not short of ideas at annual budget time.