Worcester's lone Lib Dem in warning over city council finances

Worcester News: The Guildhall, in Worcester The Guildhall, in Worcester

WORCESTER’S lone Liberal Democrat councillor says she is worried Cllr Laurenson’s demands could prove too expensive – and is threatening to walk away from any agreement if it undermines the city’s finances.

Councillor Liz Smith has told your Worcester News her “main concern” to any Labour-Green-Lib Dem deal is the council’s budget spiralling out of control.

It comes amid the talks over which party controls Worcester City Council, which as of today is still in limbo.

The city council is cutting nearly £1 million this year as part of its blueprint outlining £4.1 million savings to be made by 2019.

Cllr Smith, whose support Labour will need if they are to remain in power, says such savings will be impossible to achieve if they get distracted.

“I do think both Labour and the Conservatives have got their eyes on next year’s general election, that’s the one issue in all this,” she said.

“My concern, the main one, is if this ‘wish list’ damages the council’s finances going forward.

“We want to deliver services to a reasonable standard but they’ve got to be affordable, and if we aren’t able to do that then our shortfall continues into the future.

“If he decides to go with the Tories, obviously I can’t do anything about that.

“But the issue for me is, if he intends to go with Labour and his ideas blow too many holes in the finances I wouldn’t be too happy.”

Cllr Smith is still involved in the ongoing talks, and last spoke to Cllr Gregson yesterday morning.

MANAGING DIRECTOR TELLS PARTIES TO GET ON WITH IT

THE managing director of Worcester City Council has already played a secret role behind the scenes - by privately telling all the parties to get on with it.

In the early hours of last Friday, once the election results confirmed a hung council, Duncan Sharkey pulled the leading figures from all four parties aside to insist he wanted a swift resolution.

Your Worcester News can also reveal that before the election, he had a confidential meeting with Green Cllr Laurenson to ask the politician what policies he'd like to see in the event of a hung council becoming a reality.

The Labour Party is still planning to request that Councillor Paul Denham becomes the new city mayor at full council on Tuesday.

SO WHAT DID HAPPEN ON TUESDAY NIGHT?

DURING the crunch meetings on Tuesday night, both parties were shown the updated 'wish list' of Green demands.

Both Labour and the Tories say they are relatively pleased with how the negotiations went, with Cllr Laurenson telling them both he would back "whichever party agrees to most" of his list.

Your Worcester News understands the opposition Conservative leadership told Cllr Laurenson they wanted some time to circulate it among their fellow politicians and members to get feedback before taking negotiations further.

Crucially, Cllr Laurenson told both parties he does not want to go into a formal Coalition by taking a cabinet seat, and would be happy to instead support one side from the backbenches.

He also refused to guarantee, whichever side gets his backing, that he would vote for their 2015/16 budget next February, and that he would look at that on its' own merits.

His stance is being viewed with concern as whichever party is in control, their budget could collapse without his support.

One insider said: "It's the most important thing the council does each year, it could potentially 'bring down' our budget."

Cllr Laurenson's meeting with the Conservatives on Tuesday night, with Tory group leader Cllr Simon Geraghty and his deputy Marc Bayliss, lasted around 90 minutes and Worcester Green Party chairman Louis Stephen was also present.

Comments (10)

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6:41pm Thu 29 May 14

Paul Griffiths says...

Up until now, I had regarded the Green Party's so-called "wish list" as a reasonable basis for negotiation although, as Cllr Liz Smith points out, whatever is finally agreed must be affordable. But to rule out supporting the administration's next budget takes my breath away.
Up until now, I had regarded the Green Party's so-called "wish list" as a reasonable basis for negotiation although, as Cllr Liz Smith points out, whatever is finally agreed must be affordable. But to rule out supporting the administration's next budget takes my breath away. Paul Griffiths
  • Score: 2

6:59pm Thu 29 May 14

Shropshirelad says...

What was Louis Stephen doing there. He is neither elected or in any way remotely connected with the democratic process. As far as the Council is concerned he is just an "ordinary" man in the street. Mr. Laurenson should conduct his own business without being a lapdog to other Green Party members at what should have been an official meeting. We do not wish to see or hear of you Mr. Stephen and we will bare this in mind on future occasions if the Tories allow your presence on any future occasion. Highly improper from a constitutional/democ
ratic aspect.
What was Louis Stephen doing there. He is neither elected or in any way remotely connected with the democratic process. As far as the Council is concerned he is just an "ordinary" man in the street. Mr. Laurenson should conduct his own business without being a lapdog to other Green Party members at what should have been an official meeting. We do not wish to see or hear of you Mr. Stephen and we will bare this in mind on future occasions if the Tories allow your presence on any future occasion. Highly improper from a constitutional/democ ratic aspect. Shropshirelad
  • Score: 12

7:37pm Thu 29 May 14

thompson9100 says...

@shropshirelad - but you don't mention the fact the Tories want to consult with all unsundry within their party do you? Consult with one party member during a meeting, or say leave it with us while we speak to everyone. I know which I'd prefer.
@shropshirelad - but you don't mention the fact the Tories want to consult with all unsundry within their party do you? Consult with one party member during a meeting, or say leave it with us while we speak to everyone. I know which I'd prefer. thompson9100
  • Score: -6

8:00pm Thu 29 May 14

The Boy says...

I have not ruled out voting for the budget - please re-read the article: 'he would look at that on its' own merits.' Indeed, as I do with each issue. Why should I commit to voting on a budget now, when it is not due to be presented to council until next February?! Louis has been supporting me in highly stressful talks - as I have said in relation to another article, other councillors can ask their respective groups for advice and/or are have decades of experience. I am a lone councillor with 2 years' experience. Again, not expecting any sympathy, just pointing out the reality!
I have not ruled out voting for the budget - please re-read the article: 'he would look at that on its' own merits.' Indeed, as I do with each issue. Why should I commit to voting on a budget now, when it is not due to be presented to council until next February?! Louis has been supporting me in highly stressful talks - as I have said in relation to another article, other councillors can ask their respective groups for advice and/or are have decades of experience. I am a lone councillor with 2 years' experience. Again, not expecting any sympathy, just pointing out the reality! The Boy
  • Score: -5

8:19pm Thu 29 May 14

Paul Griffiths says...

Cllr Laurenson, I didn't say you had ruled out voting for it - please re-read my comment. You seem to be a proposing a unique arrangement; namely, to support the next administration, but not its budget. Typically, when an administration's budget falls, so does the administration.
Cllr Laurenson, I didn't say you had ruled out voting for it - please re-read my comment. You seem to be a proposing a unique arrangement; namely, to support the next administration, but not its budget. Typically, when an administration's budget falls, so does the administration. Paul Griffiths
  • Score: 2

9:35pm Thu 29 May 14

The Boy says...

I have re-read your first comment – you implied that I have ruled out supporting the administration's next budget, which, as the article makes clear, I have not done.
I have re-read your first comment – you implied that I have ruled out supporting the administration's next budget, which, as the article makes clear, I have not done. The Boy
  • Score: -5

10:28pm Thu 29 May 14

FranklyFrank says...

The Green wishlist seems to contain a number of things which require a feasibility study or are done or nearly done now. If some of them went ahead they could prove costly, but are they practical?

re the Budget, an adminstration-no matter of which party, has to have the confidence that its budget will gpo through because many of its items will depend on others for the whole thing to work.

It's the Lib-Dem actions which have been odd. They broke their word on the 2 year agreement they signed and now complain that since then the Conservatives have been beastly to LIz Smith-well, what a surprise! When they supported a Conservative administration the next year they held the Claines (County) seat. The next year they switched to support Labour and lost.

At this year's budget meeting I could not understand why the Lib-Dems voted for a cut in street sweeping and play area maintenance. What exactly of benefit to our city is Liz Smith getting from Labour for her propping them up? If there was something, I might understand-but I can't see it. Can anyone else?

For Conservatives I believe they key issues are putting back the street sweeper and play area repair cuts (only tens of thousands) and reopening the possibility of building a competition standard swimming pool.
The Green wishlist seems to contain a number of things which require a feasibility study or are done or nearly done now. If some of them went ahead they could prove costly, but are they practical? re the Budget, an adminstration-no matter of which party, has to have the confidence that its budget will gpo through because many of its items will depend on others for the whole thing to work. It's the Lib-Dem actions which have been odd. They broke their word on the 2 year agreement they signed and now complain that since then the Conservatives have been beastly to LIz Smith-well, what a surprise! When they supported a Conservative administration the next year they held the Claines (County) seat. The next year they switched to support Labour and lost. At this year's budget meeting I could not understand why the Lib-Dems voted for a cut in street sweeping and play area maintenance. What exactly of benefit to our city is Liz Smith getting from Labour for her propping them up? If there was something, I might understand-but I can't see it. Can anyone else? For Conservatives I believe they key issues are putting back the street sweeper and play area repair cuts (only tens of thousands) and reopening the possibility of building a competition standard swimming pool. FranklyFrank
  • Score: 1

2:20pm Fri 30 May 14

Shropshirelad says...

The Boy, no sympathy whatsoever with your position. I would expect any councillor, newly appointed or not to be able to stand on their own two feet and deal with issues as they arise. It is one thing to have support and advice from all and sundry "behind the scenes" but to have another person, unelected and having no official position at all holding your hand at official meetings is not on under any circumstances. You have joined an institution requiring maturity of though and good judgement, your mates cannot be sitting alongside you in Council deliberations and the reasons you give for having another Green at meetings is quite wrong and an insult to all of electorate.
thompson9100, yes I agree, the Tories should not have agreed to this and they are very wrong to have done so but " politics" was talking here and the Tories appear to think that "anything goes" as long as they can get power. For their information it doesn't and they would do well to remember it. I haven't voted/supported Tory for two years or more and don't intend to ever again.
The Boy, no sympathy whatsoever with your position. I would expect any councillor, newly appointed or not to be able to stand on their own two feet and deal with issues as they arise. It is one thing to have support and advice from all and sundry "behind the scenes" but to have another person, unelected and having no official position at all holding your hand at official meetings is not on under any circumstances. You have joined an institution requiring maturity of though and good judgement, your mates cannot be sitting alongside you in Council deliberations and the reasons you give for having another Green at meetings is quite wrong and an insult to all of electorate. thompson9100, yes I agree, the Tories should not have agreed to this and they are very wrong to have done so but " politics" was talking here and the Tories appear to think that "anything goes" as long as they can get power. For their information it doesn't and they would do well to remember it. I haven't voted/supported Tory for two years or more and don't intend to ever again. Shropshirelad
  • Score: -1

8:49am Sat 31 May 14

Paul Griffiths says...

@FranklyFrank

It wasn't a 2 year agreement. It wasn't broken, it was simply ended as all voluntary agreements can be. Regarding the subject of this thread, note that while the agreement was in place, the Liberal Democrats allowed the Conservative budget to go through despite misgivings. What the city has gained from the past year is a financial plan that doesn't rely on wishful thinking but rather borrowing within its means, treating council employees fairly, and outsourcing services only where it clearly saves money while preserving standards.
@FranklyFrank It wasn't a 2 year agreement. It wasn't broken, it was simply ended as all voluntary agreements can be. Regarding the subject of this thread, note that while the agreement was in place, the Liberal Democrats allowed the Conservative budget to go through despite misgivings. What the city has gained from the past year is a financial plan that doesn't rely on wishful thinking but rather borrowing within its means, treating council employees fairly, and outsourcing services only where it clearly saves money while preserving standards. Paul Griffiths
  • Score: -1

9:31pm Sat 31 May 14

CHANDBRUSH says...

Considering all the promises the Libdems broke after the last election selling Liberal values for 30 pieces of silver to get into bed with this Right wing bunch of posh boys anything they say is a joke,
Considering all the promises the Libdems broke after the last election selling Liberal values for 30 pieces of silver to get into bed with this Right wing bunch of posh boys anything they say is a joke, CHANDBRUSH
  • Score: -1

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