• Devon Tories vote down bid to increase consultation time on service cuts

    15th May 2014 | News | Claire
  • The voting took place to a barrage of angry heckling from the public gallery, some shouting “watch your seats on election day!” And “shame!”

    The libdems said they asked for the meeting to be arranged because they were worried that too many decisions were taken in private, the consultations for some service cuts had been vague – and that there hadn’t been enough opportunity for members of the public to address the council.

    A main motion put forward by libdem group leader, Cllr Alan Connett, urging the council to extend the public consultation period for many of the proposed service cuts, to allow more time for consideration and information to be provided.

    There were a series of amendments to the motion from libdems, labour councillors – and from my group – which were based on countering the cuts in individual county council wards.

    Ukip group leader, Cllr Robin Julian spoke against the cuts.

    I moved an amendment on behalf of Ottery, which is set to lose its library, children’s centre building and youth centre. I asked the council not to make any final decisions about the cuts until a full assessment had been made of the combined impact.

    Dozens of members of the public, many of them angry, sat in the public gallery and some asked searching questions of portfolio holders.

    Throughout the debate on the motion and amendments, conservative councillors remained silent. 

    Only leader, Cllr John Hart spoke.  He asked his group to vote down all the motions and amendments. He set out the difficulties that the council faced in terms of budget cuts and how unhappy he was at the amount of money that central government had removed from councils.

    This year, Devon County Council has had to cut £24m from its budgets. It has resulted in proposals for closures of libraries, children’s centres, youth centres, day centres, residential homes and a reduction in the hot meals subsidy.

    But next year the council must cut a whopping £49m, followed by a further £25m in 2016.

    Cllr Richard Westlake (labour), Alan Connett (libdem) and Des Hannon (libdem), pointed out how silent the conservative councillors had been during the debate and urged them to vote in the interests of their communities.

    Cllr Connett proposed a recorded vote (which lists how each councillor voted), but the conservatives and ukip voted against a recorded vote.

    Then each amendment and the main motion was voted on separately.

    The voting patterns appeared to be – all libdems, labour and non-aligned group (my group) voting in favour of the motions and amendments.

    Voting against were the conservatives and ukip.