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More affordable homes and a council tax freeze passed by Watford Borough Council
Affordable homes, park improvements and a more vibrant town centre have all been promised by Watford Borough Council’s budget.
Liberal Democrat councillors praised the council’s strong financial position, despite "a significant and continuing drop" in government grants and no net income from business rates.
Mayor of Watford Dorothy Thornhill said: "The headline is the level of Council Tax and the good news is we’re proposing a freeze. It has not increased in this mayoral term and is lower than in 2009.
"We have always been clear that the council has an active role in promoting the economic wellbeing of Watford.
"We have a good message, another freeze, a balanced budget, no service cuts, and no closure of popular facilities, and we’ve managed to put money back into reserves."
She promised more events in the town centre, anti-littering campaigns, more affordable homes, and improvements to parks.
Opposition councillors were quick to point out the £50,000 cut in funding for charities and community centres, the lion’s share of which coming from the Watford Women’s Centre for domestic violence.
Councillor Bell said: "This is a responsible budget friendly to business and families. The bulk of the money would be spent on the regeneration of St Albans Road.
"We would talk to traders and residents and finally get something done for a desperately needed part of the town that has been left out by this administration."
The alternative proposal also included funding for the women’s centre, an anti-social behaviour officer, and a freeze in CPZ fees, while cutting the mayor’s salary - and Liberal Democrat hospitality budget.
Councillor Bell added: "Is it biscuits or sandwiches? I don’t know, but it comes to over £1,000 a year.
"This is a complacent budget from a complacent and self-satisfied liberal democrat mayor and council.
"You would not believe that staff had lost their jobs in the last few years and that her Government has led an attack on local government finance with a 35 per cent cut since 2010, leading to the £5 million cuts to Watford finances."
Councillor Bell criticised the privatisation of services, errors in revenues and benefits, and the £4.5 million "bridge to nowhere" in The Parade.
He added: "While this is all going on St Albans Road is crying out for regeneration as it has been waiting since the mayor was elected 12 years ago.
"This is why our responsible budget proposes using reserves specifically for St Albans Road to work with and ask the traders and residents there for their input and what they see as the way forward."
Liberal Democrat councillor Iain Sharpe called the Labour budget and plans for St Albans Road "negativity, begrudgery and the odd pie in the sky".
He added: "We do not have a significant land holding, we don’t own the shops and we are not the highways authority so what we can do is limited.
"This is a number you’ve plucked out of the air, what you have done was frankly waffle. You haven’t said a single thing you would like the money spend it. Put forward a proposal and we will start to look at it.
"Given the legacy they left, taking lectures in council finance from one of the worst performing councils in the country is frankly like taking lessons on fire safety from a couple of arsonists. They are the last people in Watford who are in a position to lecture anyone on this."
The Liberal Democrat budget was passed.
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