TORIES attacked councillors’ pay, paid leave for union officials and the grant paid to an anti-facist organisation as they tabled a series of amendments to the budget.
Sunderland Conservatives praised the council for taking advantage of the Government’s offered £2.38million grant to freeze rates.
But they hit out at the council’s £82,000 spend on its Community News letters and £154,000 cost of council staff working on trade union business
Sunderland Conservatives leader Robert Oliver said: “There is no real need for the Community News letters. It is propaganda on the rates. They are town hall Pravdas.”
Conservative councillors called for council trade union officers to be funded by membership subscriptions rather than council taxpayers.
Deputy Tory leader Peter Wood tabled an amendment calling for £36,764 to be chopped from the total amount paid to councillors who have special responsibilities on the council.
He said city councillors were worth their salt when it came to their allowances, but the total amount paid out would go up this year and should be reduced in times of financial hardship.
“We should not be increasing payments to ourselves while cutting funding elsewhere,” he said.
The Tories also called for the council’s £8,000 grant to the Tyne and Wear Anti Facist Association (TWAFA) to be axed, with Coun Oliver claiming this money would be better spent on equality issues elsewhere.
He questioned the activities and responsibility of the TWAFA, but was rounded upon by Labour councillors.
Labour councillors said union officials’ work was vital to employees and the council in terms of saving jobs and money – and the Community News letters were an important way to communicate to residents.
They accused the Tories of crying “crocodile tears” while “not caring” about people in Sunderland.
“The people of Sunderland will not be conned by these Cons,” said Coun Watson. “We know you don’t care – you only need look at what your party is doing to this city.”
Conservatives suggested cash saved from their proposed cuts be spent on £30,000 for a feasibility study on the future of Crowtree Leisure Centre and £181,447 to fund one day per week of free parking to boost city centre trade.
Other areas they wanted to increase spending included £24,000 for road resurfacing and the same for seafront regeneration and £22,000 for four additional apprenticeship places.
Coun Watson said the amounts were “de minimis” when looking at what the council was already spending in those areas, and accused the Tories of trying to grab “cheap headlines”.