Reducing Sunderland Airshow to once every two years among cost-cutting plans but forward by Tories in alternative budget
Reducing Sunderland Airshow to once every two years, slashing councillor allowances, and clamping down on dog fouling are among potential measures city bosses will be asked to vote on this week.
Sunderland City Council’s budget for 2019/20 is due to be agreed tonight.
The ruling Labour group’s spending plans, worth about £650m, are due to include a 3.99 per cent council tax rise and proposals to invest more than £100m in the city centre.
But the city’s opposition Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have also tabled their own amendments.
According to the Tories, measures including holding the airshow on alternate years, cutting allowances for councillors and increasing income from dog fouling and littering fines could save £2.02m.
This could then be used to hire five park wardens and half the planned council tax increase.
Conservative councillor Antony Mullen said: “The same Labour councillors who voted down proposals to pay for their own meals after meetings are collectively pocketing around a million pound in allowances each year.
“Some individual Labour councillors receive more in allowances per year for chairing a few meetings than they’d receive working a full-time minimum wage job.
“The Conservatives believe that the allowances scheme needs to be overhauled and replaced by one that the people we represent would consider justifiable.”
The Lib Dems have also put together a proposed package of savings worth a more modest £765,000.
Like the Tories, they have suggested cutting councillor allowances, which Sunderland Lib Dem leader Niall Hodson has said would help restore ‘trust in local politics’.
The Lib Dems have also raised the prospect of the current roles of mayor and deputy mayor with ‘unpaid elected chairperson and deputy chairperson’ and overhauling election rules so the whole council is put to a vote every four years, instead of the current system of doing it by thirds.
They say the savings could be used to fund disabled student transport, freeze brown bin charges and introduce a ‘a self-financing dog warden service’.
But the proposed amendments have been branded ‘pork barrel politics’ by Labour council leader Graeme Miller, who added the total amount claimed by Labour councillors compared to other parties reflected their majority on the council.
There are currently eight Conservative Party councillors, six members of the ‘Liberal Democrat and Others’ political grouping and 56 councillors representing the Labour Party.
Addressing plans to cut allowances, he said: “The basic allowance is to enable and assist [councillors] to do their jobs as councillors.
“When I was a frontline councillor I often had to take time off work that I didn’t get paid for.”
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service