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