The Liberal Democrat and Green Alliance Group, who are the main Opposition group on Uttlesford DC, strongly condemned the budget proposed by the R4U administration as a "pre-election make believe budget" which will lead to the need for an emergency budget after the May local elections.
Cllr Melvin Caton (Stansted South and Birchanger), leader of the Liberal Democrat and Green Group at UDC, told the council that "Senior officers have already warned us that there will have to be an emergency budget in the summer. We will need to rectify this pre election 'bogus' budget. We should not pretend the council's finances are'hunky dory 'as the R4U administration claim.
"It is absurd that R4U claim to be prudent financial managers when the black hole in the finances will be filled by spending over £6m of our reserves starting with the £2.3m payment to Stansted Airport for the costs awarded to them because of what the Planning Inspectors described as their unreasonable behaviour at the planning appeal".
"The council's interest payments on their commercial investment programme have increased by £5.6m in the current year because they failed to fix rates when they were at a historic low despite frequent warnings that this would happen. In fact, income from the investments is now estimated to be £760K this year- a rate of return of below 0.5% on the R4U's borrowings. The value of investments purchased under the R4U regime is now below what we spent to buy them. The only asset that is now showing a capital gain is the Chesterford Research Park which was purchased by the previous administration".
Cllr Caton expressed his concern that the Council's Housing Capital Programme has had to be paused in 2023/24 because the council cannot borrow from the Public Works Loan Board because it plans to borrow for commercial investments instead. "I don't recall the council being asked if they agreed to that choice. I certainly wouldn't have agreed to it",he said
Lib Dems saddened by R4U rejection of their proposed Council Tax freeze on low-income households.
The LibDem and Green Group were extremely disappointed that the R4U administration rejected their proposal that, in effect, froze the Council Tax on properties in bands A to C in the district for the 2023/24 financial year
Cllr Ayub Khan (Stansted South and Birchanger),said, "We are very concerned that the increasing cost of living will continue to impact lower income families in the "just about managing group" in the district in the coming year. We support the council in setting a Cost of Living Fund open to applications from any Council Tax payer who are in financial distress but we wished to supplement it with the freeze on Council Tax on smaller homes.