THERE was a mass walk out by Plaid Cymru councillors at Caerphilly tonight as the authority approved £14.5million of cuts to its budget for 2014/15.
Months of consultation and scrutiny committee meetings came to a head in a heated debate about which services could be saved from the budget proposals.
Caerphilly council had to make savings of £14.53million in 2014/15 as a result of the UK Government austerity measures, with further additional savings of £6.54million for 2015/16 and £7.06million for 2016/17 to be finalised in the future.
A special cabinet meeting took place yesterday afternoon in which the proposals were unanimously recommended for the full council meeting to discuss a couple of hours later.
Many contentious proposals were put forward and discussed including the reduction of council staff’s casual mileage rate, the closure of Caerphilly Leisure Centre’s cafe and cuts to the provision of domestic cleaning services.
Among the proposals to be approved by the council were an increase in council tax of 3.9 per cent for the next financial year, and for the living wage increase to £7.65 per hour to be backdated to November 1, 2013.
But after amendments put forward by Plaid Cymru councillors were rejected by votes, including one by the leader Colin Mann, to discuss senior officers pay, Plaid councillors left the chamber prematurely, leaving the remaining councillors to approve the budget proposals and the council tax increase.
The council’s deputy leader, Keith Reynolds said he was “utterly disgusted” by the mass walkout which he called a “cowardice” act.
Council officers insisted the consultation process for the budget proposals had been thorough and all the views had been taken into consideration.
This, they said, was reflected in the £628,000 proposed savings withdrawn following the consultation process.
These withdrawals included the casual mileage rates reduction from £0.55 to £0.50 – a 50 per cent change in the original proposal of £0.45, which could have saved an extra £125,000.
An increased charge of £0.25 to the Meals on Wheels service was also made rather than the original recommendation of a £1 increase.