Liberal Democrat plans for free school meals for vulnerable children, investment in roads and footways, action on flooding, tree planting and mental health support in schools have all been voted down by the Conservatives at Hertfordshire County Council.
The Conservatives rejected a fully costed and deliverable plan from the opposition Liberal Democrats that would have delivered free school meals, for children in need, for the next year - while seeking government support for future years.
The plans, costed by county officers, would have seen the council also restore a cut in highways maintenance, increase funding to improve footways, plant more trees and invest in additional solar generation to increase income as well as an investing in roadside electric vehicle charging points.
The key areas of change put forward by the Liberal Democrats were
A Fairer Herts:
Supporting vulnerable children with free school meals and school uniform subsidies.
An Emergency response programme to address local highway flooding.
Restoring the £8m cut to the highways resurfacing programme.
Dealing with dangerous potholes on side roads in 5 working days rather 20.
Funding for more pavement repairs.
A £5.5m fund over 4 years to invest in tackling inequality and changing community needs post COVID.
A Greener Herts:
Spending £5.5m over 4 years in planting more urban and highways trees
Off grid solar power lighting for off road cycle and along routes - saving money
Additional PV solar generation capacity - generating income
Expanding the school energy saving programme to ensure schools start to become carbon neutral and warmer
Funding for on street electric vehicle charging points
A Healthier Herts:
Action to provide additional mental health support in schools - with 50 more school nurses by 2025
Investment in joining up cycle routes linking towns encouraging active cycling for work and pleasure £3.1m over 4 years towards more footway repairs to support the sustainability agenda and encourage walking
Changing the rules to bring in town side 20mph areas that are healthier for residents and encourage walking and cycling in a safer environment
The Liberal Democrats proposed to dispose of 10% of the County Council's surplus property over 4 years, which would also have reduced security costs of safeguarding empty buildings. They also proposed cutting corporate communications and correspondence for which over £9m had been allocated in the Conservative budget in one year.
Cllr Paul Zukowskyj, Lib Dem Deputy Leader and Finance spokesperson said, "The Council is sitting on over seven square kilometres of land designated surplus. It's an eye-watering land bank and yet the Conservatives are failing to use it to the benefit of residents. We want to sell just 10% and, with the money generated, make a real difference to climate change, inequality and our communities. I don't understand why the Conservatives prefer to sit on their hands and not help people to a fairer, greener and healthier future."
Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Liberal Democrat Group Leader said. "We were clear that the priorities of the Conservatives were wrong. Our budget would not only level up communities but provide for a fairer Herts community."