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Town hall leader Elise Wilson hailed Stockport council ’s ‘people’s budget’ as Labour's financial plan for the coming year was passed by a majority vote.

It includes a 3.99pc hike to council tax as well as a £4.2m package of cuts to crisis funding, museums, libraries and transport for special needs children.

Council tax payers will also stump up an average of £24 for the Greater Manchester Mayor’s general and policing precepts, while fees and charges will rise in line with inflation.

However, the budget also identifies more than £7m in one-off monies, which includes £1.5m for the repair and maintenance of roads and infrastructure damaged by last year’s flooding and £1.2m for children’s social care projects in Werneth and Brinnington.

There is also a three-year £375m capital investment programme which will plough funds into health, regeneration, school estates and highways schemes.

Coun Wilson said the budget was set to ‘deliver’ for the people of Stockport.

Addressing the annual budget setting meeting at the town hall she said: “Our budget is a robust and resilient budget and it’s a budget for the people. Because when we are making difficult choices there is always a cost to what we are doing.

“We have to think about people going about their daily lives we have to and make sure we are doing the best we can to put them first and put them at its heart."

Coun Wilson acknowledged the challenges facing the council were often complicated and without easy solutions - but there was ‘inevitably a cost to people’.

“What our budget does is keep people at the heart of it, keeping commitment and investment into making sure we get the right possible outcomes for people and tackling complex situations we find ourselves in,  and the climate emergency,” she said.

Coun Elise Wilson (Image: Stockport Council / Mike Frisbee)

But the Lib Dems were left ‘dispirited’ after their amendment - proposing the creation of a ‘climate emergency fund’ was blocked by the other parties.

Set at £6.4m - the equivalent of the dividend the council received from Manchester Airport this year - it was to be split into two parts.

 Some 2.1m - £100k per ward -  was earmarked for local schemes such as upgrading footpaths or planting more trees, while £4.3m was allocated to ‘strategic cross-ward projects’ such as highways infrastructure.

Moving the amendment, Lib Dem deputy leader Coun Lisa Smart welcomed the cross-party work that was already underway- but said the council ‘can and must do more’.

And she claimed that, by continuing to match the airport dividend, the council would send a 'real message' about the importance it attaches to climate change both now and in the future.

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Coun Smart added: “This council can do remarkable things when it puts its mind to it and much of the infrastructure for this fund that we would need is already in place.

“By creating this fund we are putting the resources in place to drive real action.

"Future generations need us to take action to tackle the climate emergency and the creation of a climate emergency fund would be a real step in the right direction.”

However -  despite keeping £2.4m of Labour’s proposed spending of ‘one-off funds’ under the umbrella of the climate emergency fund - deputy leader Coun Tom McGee rebuffed the proposal.

While agreeing climate change was the most serious issue - locally, nationally and globally - he did not support the Lib Dems' strategy.

“Having 21 wards making decisions at a micro-level is not the way forward in our view," he said.

“We are not prepared to take a micro-view of this to facilitate - dare I say - Liberal leaflets in the coming weeks."

Coun McGee added that, rather than 'gambling' on one-off monies continuing to be available he would rather put the council's climate change strategy on a ‘proper financial footing'.

He continued: “Overall what we need to is make sure Stockport is sustainable and, going forward, the way to do that is to plan strategically across the borough with our partners,  - and not trying to micromanage at a small level.”

Tory leader Coun Mike Hurleston also said his group could not back the amendment - not least because the first they had heard of it was when it was moved it on the night.

“You have pulled a rabbit out of the hat and are saying ‘back us, back us, back us’, when there are loads of questions to be asked. If you want a quick and a short answer, the answer is ‘no’.

And Coun Adrian Nottingham, of Heald Green Independent Ratepayers, praised the Lib Dem amendment.

But he said a budget-setting meeting was not the place to push changes forward and he sensed a degree of ‘political manoeuvring’.

Earlier in the evening a Stockport United Against Austerity presented a 730-signature petition, urging Labour to hike council tax to the maximum 3.99pc rather than make cuts to emergency funds for people in crisis situations.

Citing the recent Marmot report, which found 10 years of austerity had hit north hardest, he said it was ‘no time to be cutting emergency safety net scheme’ for the ‘borough’s poorest residents’.

Explaining the decision not to increase council tax by the maximum possible  Coun McGee said: “We recognise the tax burden on people of high tax rises over many years.

"We need to make sure, though, that Stockport becomes financially self-sufficient.

"Even if we increase council tax to its full, we would not have enough money, we would still have to make saving proposals. It’s not a panacea to raise council tax to its maximum.”


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