Leader defends budget axing 600 Hull City Council jobs
CITY council leader Steve Brady has defended a controversial budget axing up to 600 jobs, cutting services and increasing council tax bills in Hull.
Three backbench Labour councillors voted against their own ruling group's proposals at Thursday's annual budget-setting meeting of the authority.
But Councillor Brady said senior Labour politicians at the Guildhall had done all they could to cushion the impact of unprecedented reductions in Whitehall funding.
"The budget is about trying to maintain services and jobs," he said.
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"We held 27 separate meetings with officers over it, going through the details line by line.
"We have done everything we possibly can to minimise these cuts."
Cllr Brady contrasted Labour's stance with that of the previous Liberal Democrat administration two years ago, which moved a budget axing 1,000 jobs.
"The previous leader of the council actually said he looked forward to and welcomed the cuts," said Cllr Brady.
"At the time, there were proposals to close every day centre in the city, do away with the Connexions careers service and butcher the music service for young people and the museums were only going to open on certain days of the week.
"We managed to put a stop to all that and, under this budget, all the day centres will stay open, the music service is being supported and the museums, which are really our jewels in the crown, are all still open and thriving."
Cllr Brady insisted other positive features of the budget were being overlooked, including continued subsidy funding to free universal bus travel for pensioners and the disabled and an agreement with primary schools to peg the price of a lunchtime meal to £1.
"This contrasts with £1.90 a meal being charged at some schools in the East Riding," he said.
"Our budget means for just £5 a week, every primary pupil who is not eligible for free meals can get a nourishing hot meal every day."
The Labour leader also confirmed he was still personally reviewing all vacancies at the council to see if filling them was absolutely necessary.
The backbench rebels – Gary Wareing, Gill Kennett and Dean Kirk – expect to be thrown out of the Labour group for defying orders to vote against the budget.
But Conservative group leader Councillor John Fareham said their defiance had a hollow ring to it.
He said: "I respect their principles and also their courage in facing the inevitable wrath of the rather control-freak Stalinist Labour group, where outdated orthodoxy is prized above original thought, but true rebellion would have been to have tabled their own alternative budget and shown us how they would deal with economic reality."
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Councillor Mike Ross said: "This backbench rebellion shows there are clear divisions in the Labour group, which will only get worse as the reality of the cuts sink in."