A meeting on major budget cuts turned into a bitter political battle between parties.
Tory councillors said proposals to slash the budget by £140million were a ‘fact of life’ but said at the Hampshire County Council meeting last week they are still looking for alternatives.
In a heated debate, Lib Dem and Labour councillors spoke against the proposals, suggesting the council should fight back against the austerity imposed by central government.
Speaking after the meeting, Conservative Hampshire County Council leader Roy Perry said: “Conservatives are actively offering solutions whilst all Lib Dems and Labour are doing is moaning.”
The proposals could mean that a charge of £10 on older persons’ five-year bus passes and a £1 fee to use household waste tips are introduced.
It is hoped that the bus fee would help maintain community transport by raising a potential £500,000, while the charge to use waste tips would potentially generate £4million to help keep tip opening hours as they are.
Previous proposals included reducing school crossing patrols, cutting library staff as well as closing half of the county’s recycling and waste centres – but the council hopes it has viable alternatives to reduce the impact to services as much as possible.
During the meeting, the Lib Dems submitted amendments that were not carried through.
Tory councillor for Basingstoke South West, Stephen Reid, said: “This [situation] is a fact of life. [If you are not offering viable alternatives] I think you are failing in your duty.”
He added that the council has until February to look for alternatives where it can, after a public consultation takes place later this month.
During the meeting, many councillors voiced concerns that introducing a charge for waste tips could mean an increase in fly tipping.
Many also spoke out about proposals to charge more for buses, saying it could have a severe impact and lead to social isolation for many people.
Cllr Keith House, Liberal Democrat leader of Eastleigh borough council, said: “This is a dark, dark day for this county and the people of our communities. We need to approach central government again.
“We are talking about reducing quality of health and people’s livelihoods, effectively shortening people’s lives and reducing people’s wealth.”
Labour Cllr Michael Westbrook, for Basingstoke central, fully supported the statements, adding: “We find ourselves in this position when we were assured years ago that the Tory government were the ones who would clear the deficit.
“Their administration has been one of constant austerity and not enough investment.”