The Conservative opposition on Corby Council has slammed the authority’s ruling Labour group over its proposals to cut £50,000 from the town’s PCSO budget.
They voted against the move at a recent meeting of the One Corby Policy Committee and have branded the cut as irresponsible, saying it will jeopardise the safety of local people.
Earlier this month the Labour-controlled council submitted its 2016/17 budget proposals for public consultation.
In addition to the PCSO service cuts, the council is also proposing to increase council tax by 1.9 per cent and spend £30,000 on a lighting ‘makeover’ for Coronation Park.
But the Conservatives feel that the park ‘make-over’ is a luxury which should not be prioritised over community safety.
Leader of the Corby Conservatives Cllr Rob McKellar said: “Labour’s PCSO cuts are completely unacceptable and will place the people of Corby and its surrounding villages at risk.
“The new lighting at Coronation Park is something that falls into the ‘nice to have category’ but these things have to be paid for.
“Slashing £50,000 from the PCSO service to pay for a vanity project is not good management of taxpayers’ money and is quite frankly irresponsible.”
The council has proposed to compensate in part for the PCSO cuts by increasing the funding available for neighbourhood wardens by £30,000, but the Conservatives have criticised the plans as inadequate.
Cllr McKellar added: “Labour are essentially proposing to replace a policing service with a warden service.
“This will come as no consolation to local people who have a basic right to feel safe in their own town and villages.”
The Conservatives have also expressed concern at the council tax increase, which they say could have been avoided if Labour had managed the local finances properly.
Shadow cabinet member for finance Cllr David Sims said: “The council tax increase is a sorry reflection on Labour’s handling of the local economy.
“For years they spent and spent as though there was no tomorrow and now they are putting up taxes and cutting services to pay for it.”
Deputy leader of Corby Council Cllr Jean Addison feels Labour’s proposals mean residents will benefit from a local service for local people.
She said: “Corby Council is in the same position as every other local authority up and down the country, in which we are all finding it increasingly financially difficult due to central government cuts.
“In Corby we have had a council tax freeze for five years but unfortunately we simply don’t feel that we can absorb central government cuts any further without the proposed 1.9 per cent increase.
“This is an average of £3.35 per year, keeping our element of the average council tax bill among the lowest in the country.
“Our proposals to invest in new lighting at Coronation Park and our neighbourhood wardens is a way for us to increase community safety in the borough at a time when we have seen our funding from the PCC reduced from over £50,000 to zero over the past two years.
“While in Corby we continued to fund PCSOs, we have seen two of these officers moved out of the borough for a long time and over to Oundle.
“Our proposals to reinvest money into our wardens means that our residents benefit from a local service for local people.
“We also don’t agree that lighting at Coronation Park is a ‘nice to have’ investment.
“With the county reductions in street lighting and Corby’s night-time economy in the town centre increasing it is important that we make the area as safe as possible and feel that the proposals for Coronation Park help to reduce safety issues.
“Overall we are proud of what we are continuing to achieve here in Corby while tackling reductions from central government.
“We have recently been praised by the LGA for our financial management and will continue to work hard to deliver and raise the standard of services to the very best.
“We of course want to know what our residents think of the budget proposals and would urge residents to have their say through our consultation which can be found on the council website.’
The Conservatives’ alternative budget proposals will be released for consultation in January 2016.