Lib Dems question Labour cuts and call for Cambridge’s Big Weekend to be saved by commercial partner

Lib Dems question Labour cuts and call for Cambridge’s Big Weekend to be saved by commercial partner

The Liberal Democrat opposition in Cambridge City Council has questioned the ruling Labor party’s proposals to close some public toilets, limit enforcement of environmental rules and suspend the big weekend to save money.

Consultation on Labor’s draft budget recently closed after the party outlined the need to save £11.5m over five years.

Cllr Tim Bick, leader of the Lib Dem opposition in Cambridge City Council

Toilets on Quayside, Chesterton Road and Mill Road could be closed, while those on recreation areas in Chesterton, Coleridge, Romsey and Midsummer Common could be restricted to opening at weekends.

Labor proposes reducing the public area enforcement team from seven to six and only having them patrol in pairs when monitoring litter, fly tipping, dog checking, barge advertising and commercial A-boards.

And it has suggested it could save by ending the annual big weekend of free summertime entertainment on Parker’s Piece.

Lib Dem leader Cllr Tim Bick said: “We can all see the Council is feeling the pinch, as are the rest of us. But this range of savings seems to be exactly what a local government should uphold – not undermine – in the public interest. Public toilets are used by all parts of the community. Their current usage data is questionable, as some aren’t coin-operated and those that are are inaccessible to the many people who haven’t been carrying change since the pandemic.

“The problem behaviors, such as fly-tipping and littering, which the enforcement team is designed to deter and, if at all, punish, appear to be increasing. There are already real concerns that coverage across the city is too little rather than too much.

“The big weekend is obviously a different kind of council activity and the scrutiny of the money spent on it is understandable. Nonetheless, it generates important community cohesion benefits by bringing the whole city together and celebrating its diversity through the Asian mela.”

He suggested looking for sponsors or a commercial partner to carry out the event.

A previous big weekend at Parker’s Piece. Image: Keith Heppell

The council has said it has “remodeled” the way it offers services to save money.

But Cllr Bick said: “For a number of years the City Council has been working on a huge, costly exercise to reinvent itself – so it can continue to do the things that matter for the city, but in different and more efficient ways.

“We’ve seen little results so far – but now we’re getting seemingly incoherent, ill-conceived, panicked cuts. This larger exercise needs to be put back on track so that more thought can be given to the proposed cuts.”

The Lib Dems did not suggest any alternative cuts they would make.

Cllr Mike Davey (Lab, Petersfield), the Executive Council for Finance, Resources and Transformation, has described the economic situation the council is facing as “serious and challenging” and said the budget consultation would “help us immensely to make some decisions about how we should do it differently and where we could make significant savings”.

The draft budget is scheduled to be discussed at the Council’s Strategy and Resources Review Committee meeting on January 30 and by the Executive on February 9, before being debated and approved by the full Council on February 23.

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