Would anyone like to have a quick word with Labour in their shell-like? People, you do not run the council anymore. Their arrogance is staggering and their idea of obtaining consensus was to email their reduced offer to us only an hour before the council meeting without any negotiation.
They came to the council yesterday knowing that they needed opposition support if they wanted to set the budget, which councillors have a legal obligation to do, and from the start engaged in ridicule and name calling. They even presented an amendment to council that was WORSE than the one they had offered and we rejected the previous evening, whilst lying to the council that it "gives the Lib Dems what they wanted". Even the Tories didn't fall for that one and saw through it as the empty gesture that it was despite obviously wanting to believe it. To negotiate successfully, you do not improve on a rejected offer by offering less. Labour see their egos as more important than the security of Council jobs or Reading people's services.
Just like the Tories, we'd like to offer the electorate an increase in funding for voluntary groups. no cuts to front-line services and a zero % council tax increase. The difference is that we know we can't promise them the Moon on a stick and we are not going to lie to the electorate and say that we can. The Conservatives know they can't deliver on their promises, and that if they tried, they would be found out, hence their deafening silence.
But facing up to reality is not an excuse for inaction and sticking our heads in the sand. We need to show that we are traveling in the right direction.
We need to show the people of Reading that we are commited to reducing their council tax. It's a small start we acknowledge, but the Labour group has fought tooth and nail to avoid making even the savings we have asked for. We have asked for a comprehensive spending review to identify areas of waste. The irony is that we are asking for a commitment to £800,000 of savings. The budget papers themselves say that we may need a figure more like £8 million.
We need to show that we are financially responsible and put something back in the now empty piggy bank that was raided to pay for last year's pre-election bribe.
We need to demonstrate to everyone that we are absolutely commited to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, the scourge of fly tipping and reckless speeding in built up areas. If you cannot answer 'what do I get for my council tax?' then there is something wrong with your policies.
It's why to achieve these things we, with the help of officers, produced a fully costed budget. It is also where the Conservative group have shown a complete lack of leadership and a total abdication of responsibility. They are not fit to call themselves an opposition.
So as not to leave you in any doubt, the Lib Dem position is the full and unanimous opinion of the group.
It's about time someone stood up to Labour bullies on behalf of the people of Reading.