After months and several meetings working up the Town Council budget for the next twelve months, this evening the Conservative group ripped up the council consensus and produced a new budget offering.
This was classic politicking in the first order, after putting a squeeze on expenditure and placing money already taken from the Shepton rate payer into reserves, they now plan to do even less for Shepton, damaging partners in the process.
Despite the Council agreeing to raise Allotment holders rent substantially, the Conservatives plan only to do a third what is required on the towns allotments.
The Council had planned to improve the bedding schemes and start a rolling programme of replacing litter bins in Collett Park with a more robust type, the Conservatives plan to cut this budget by a third, without explaining the consequences, so we don't know what will be reduced, despite asking our contractor to draw up planting schemes.
The Shepton in Bloom committee are looking to introduce new hanging basket holders and new planters, there also is work needed on the street furniture, much is dirty and needs repainting, again the Conservatives cut this to a third of anticipated expenditure.
After the recent debacle of the Conservative Mendip District Council cutting the fiances to the Tourist Information Centres, the Town Council representatives asked for more money, so the Community development group recommended an increase to £5000, but those Conservatives thought a double dose was required and cut the grant to £3600.
The Police Support officer requested that a speed indicator device should be purchased for the Old Wells Road, the Community development group agreed, but those Conservatives decided, that despite police and residents concerns, they would just remove the budget.
This years stunning digital arts festival received a £1000 grant from the Town Council, Shepton leading the way in new technology, experts in the field did workshops, again the Community development group wanted to support this unique festival, but the Conservatives just removed the funding, so no grant next year.
Shepton 21, the local regeneration partnership asked for funding for a project to supply perspex A5 flyer stands and to produce high quality flyers to advertise events going on in the Town, this is important as there always seems be an information deficit in the Town, this scheme cost £1500, the Conservatives decided to give just £500.
The Council gives money to community groups, and to earmark money for community projects this amounts to about £7000, but this has been cut by the Conservatives to £4800.
Shepton Mallet Town Council will use £17,500 from reserves and keep a similar for next year, so in fact the Town rate payers are giving an interest free loan for the Conservatives election strategy.
Still one good piece of news, I managed to persuade the Council to use the interest from our capital fund to replace the old fashioned workings of the Town Clock for a new electrified motor, instead of waiting three years under the Conservative proposals to replace, we can now move with speed, and once again our Town Clock will be working.
The Conservative budget was a classic bodge job, trying to look like there doing something, but with a stroke fundamentally undermining project after project. Like the Conservatives nationally, they confuse political strategy with sensible policy, still we'll get another year of being moribund.