The Lib Dems submitted amendments to West Sussex County Council’s 2021/22 budget arguing for investment in families, the elderly and young people.
The Lib Dem amendment proposed would have kept all children and family centres and youth centres open, retained day centres for elderly residents, and provided a 33 per cent increase in spending on footpath and bridleway maintenance, including more resources for sustainable transport such as cycling and walking.
The WSCC Lib Dem opposition grouping also proposed a significant increase in investment in mental health support for children and training for teachers as they return to school following the disruption the pandemic has caused to their education, friendships and way of life.
Group leader James Walsh said: “The Liberal Democrat group are investing in West Sussex families, in the elderly and in young people.
“We are prioritising sustainable forms of transport and encouraging residents to continue to enjoy our beautiful countryside, and the many health and wellbeing benefits it offers, which many discovered for the first time during the pandemic. And we are doing this without cutting frontline services in any area.”
Kate O’Kelly, Lib Dem county councillor for Midhurst, added: “we are facing a crisis in young people’s mental health – closing youth centres at this time is an extraordinary decision, we must fast track increased mental health support in all our schools – the Lib Dems have a plan to deliver this”
The Lib Dems believe money should be cut from the council’s communications team and councillors’ allowances instead.
After running through a list of the council’s recent failures and expenses – such as the golden handshake to the former chief executive and the huge problems with children’s services – Dr James Walsh, leader of the Liberal Democrats, accused the leadership of ‘smugness and complacency’ when it came to previous budgets.
He added: “Enough is enough. We need a break from ongoing Tory austerity with a better budget and a non-Conservative council elected in May.”
The larger WSCC Conservative group rejected the amendments and approved its own budget for 2021/22, increasing its portion of Band D council tax bills by £71.82 for the year, a rise of 4.99 per cent increase, three per cent of which goes to adult social care.