POLITICIANS in South Gloucestershire have clashed over this year’s budget.

The ruling Conservative cabinet agreed proposals to spend almost £216million on services next year, as well as more than £202million that will be distributed to schools, which will be agreed by the full council next Wednesday.

Setting out how the council will spend £215.902million, the budget will also see council tax increase by 5.99 per cent in the coming year - of 2.99 per cent as a general increase and a further 3 per cent, which is the Adult Social Care levy- meaning a Band D property will be charged £1,441.07.

The council said that while finances are projected to remain in balance for the next two years by using reserves set aside for this purpose, challenges remain in the medium term, with a significant amount of work already underway to ensure the council can continue to deliver the services people need into the future.

Shortfalls in future years are also likely to be met by further work to make additional savings and bring in additional revenue.

Cllr Matthew Riddle, Conservative leader of South Gloucestershire Council, said: “I am pleased to recommend this budget to council. We are prioritising our most vulnerable residents with significant increases in funding for services for vulnerable adults and children.

“These are challenging times, but these plans will mean that the everyday services that we all rely upon will be delivered and we have also made some additional commitments to support schools, care leavers and those looking for a home.

“I appreciate that some will feel the squeeze of rising council tax, but we are continuing to work very hard to make sure we are as efficient as we can be, to make best use of tax payer’s money. Costs are rising, but we are taking steps to keep them under control.”

But while Conservatives have welcomed the proposals, the leaders of the Labour and Lib Dem opposition parties have united to express their dismay over the lack of transparency around the plans.

During a meeting of the council’s scrutiny commission, the council’s conservative leadership reportedly admitted that it could not provide details about these savings as they had not yet been identified.

Lib Dem leader, Cllr Ruth Davis, accused the the Conservatives' of not knowing how they would go about with their plan to cut £36million from the council’s budget between 2019 and 2022, including over £16million from adult and children’s social services.

“It seems extraordinary that the Conservatives would commit to such massive cuts without having some idea of how services will be affected," she said. "Either they know where the axe will fall, but won’t say, or they are proposing these cuts with a reckless lack of preparation.”

Labour leader Cllr Pat Rooney added: “The relentless slashing of central support for local government, driven by the government’s ideological austerity programme, will have a major impact on the services that South Gloucestershire Council can provide, the staff it employs and the charges it levies.

“I was disappointed at the scrutiny meeting that the Conservative leader refused to concede that local government is taking an unfair share of this government-driven pain.

She added: “Opposition councillors only received the budget information 12 days ago and have not been privy to any of the discussions leading up to its publication. We have always disputed the Tory claim that their new Cabinet system would be transparent, and we have yet further proof of the growing culture of concealment under Tory Cabinet rule.”