Setting the record straight: untangling the Tory claims

April 26, 2011 11:09 PM

Oh dear. You always know when the Tories are getting desperate at election time when you get a glossy leaflet through your door (this one entitled "SAFEGUARDING BRENTWOOD'S FUTURE") which is full of articles attacking the local Liberal Democrats.

You wouldn't think there were 27 Tories on the Council against only 8 Liberal Democrats. With not long to go before the polls on 5th May anyone would think they were getting worried. Whilst we are used to Tory attacks we feel the need to respond in this particular case as they haven't given residents all the facts. In an effort to provide some balance we have tried to answer their claims below.

Lib Dem FACT: The Liberal Democrat group did not attempt to block a freeze in the Council tax for this year.

We simply asked for separate votes on different parts of the Tory budget as there were some areas we were more than happy to support. However our request was refused.

Leader Cllr David Kendall then made it quite clear that the Lib Dems supported the freeze on the Council tax and the cut in members allowances (as can clearly be seen on the Council's webcast recording). However we could not support the overall budget because of a number of cuts to local services and for that reason we voted against. Our budget was not made up on the back of an envelope. All our alternative budget proposals were carefully costed and checked by the two most senior finance officers at the Borough Council prior to the meeting. We knew exactly how much our proposals would cost local residents and would be more than happy to discuss them in detail with any residents who are interested.

Tory headline: KEEPING THE TOWN HALL IN THE TOWN CENTRE

Tory Claim: "The Liberal Democrats want to waste an extra £660,000 every year under their plans to "redecorate" the existing offices. They also want the council to become property speculators risking your money on building new offices to let".

Lib Dem FACT: "We have consistently been against the demolition of the Town Hall. We would like to see a major programme of renovation and refurbishment of the existing building which would include upgrading the windows, boiler, roof and wall insulation to a good standard. Whilst we have had costings from the officers for this work, they were unable to confirm what the running costs would be once all the work had been completed. Consequently the £660,000 cost quoted by the Tories is certainly news to us. The Lib Dems do not want the council to become property speculators and we have NO plans to build new offices to let. All we have said is that we would let any spare space in a renovated Town Hall to local groups or businesses if it wasn't required by Council staff.

Tory headline: LIB DEM "NIGHT TIME TOWN TAX" SHOCK

Tory claim: Lib Dem parking proposals "would force visitors to park in residential roads to avoid a £3 evening parking charge. The Lib Dems suddenly proposed this new fee at a recent council budget setting meeting without thinking through the appalling consequences".

Lib Dem FACT: Our parking proposals were fully costed and checked by the two most senior finance officers at the Borough Council before the meeting. We believe there needs to be more fairness between the day time and night time car parking charges and so do many retailers in the town who back our plans. That is why we proposed a reduction in the first hour of parking during the day from 80p to 40p and a new evening charge of £3 to help pay for it. We also had proposals to increase the level of evening and weekend parking enforcement in the town centre but the Tories blocked our move to discuss this and our other proposals that would have benefited local residents. It costs £10 to park all day in the town centre car parks. Under our proposals it would cost £3 to park all night - less than a price of a pint.

We would also make clear that these are proposals and we would consult with residents widely before anything is introduced - and we would listen too.

Tory headline: KEEPING OUR HOMES SAFE FIGHTING THE FIRE CUTS

Tory Claim: "Liberal Democrats decided to campaign to keep the library open on a Sunday, instead of fighting to save our fire service and protect homes and businesses.

Lib Dem FACT: The Tories conveniently forgot to mention that it is their own Conservative colleagues who run the Essex Fire Authority with a very large majority (16/20 members are Tories). Local Tories in Brentwood failed to convince their colleagues against making changes to Brentwood's Fire Service. They even failed to convince their County Council colleague in Hutton who sits on the Fire Authority and showed his active support for the Fire Authority changes with a letter to the local paper. Lib Dem Fact Lib Dem leader Cllr David Kendall attended the public meeting organised by the Fire Authority and got assurances that Brentwood Fire Station was not under any threat of closure and that two pumps were going to remain at the station.

Tory headline: HIGH STREET WELCOMES NEW SHOPS

Tory Claim: Local Conservatives are working hard to attract new shops and businesses to the town centre despite Lib Dem attempts to talk down the town at every opportunity.

Lib Dem FACT: The Liberal Democrats have a proud record of attracting new business to Brentwood from when we ran the Council between 1991 and 2004. Large organisations like BT and Mellon Bank were encouraged to come to Brentwood and we introduced innovative parking schemes like the "Cash Back" scheme. In more recent times we have given our support to the new Brentwood First business initiative but we hold our hands up and admit we have been very critical of the Tories car parking policies and issues like the Lighting up Brentwood Xmas event. Our leader Cllr David Kendall resigned from the Renaissance Group because he disagreed with a number of initiatives being taken forward. However he is an executive member of the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Federation of Small Businesses.