CUTS of £7 million and a council tax rise of 3.5 per cent were approved by Newport council last night following a heated debate.
Matthew Evans, leader of the Conservatives, was accused of being a “breakfast stealer” after his party proposed to rein in cuts by reducing funds for breakfast clubs and cutting school funding.
Tories argued that parents should be giving children breakfast themselves, but the motion failed and the budget for 2013/14 was passed.
The move by councillors means that a number of cutbacks for the next financial year will go ahead, while council tax will increase by 3.5 per cent.
They include axing Newport’s subsidy to Gwent Music Support Service, shutting Stow Hill library, cuts to the Outdoor Education Service and shutting Underwood Leisure Centre.
Labour members reflected on cuts coming down from the UK government. Council leader Bob Bright said he had never been involved in such a painful and difficult process, while deputy leader Ray Truman said councillors weren’t enjoying having to make savings.
However, Cllr Evans, Tory leader, proposed to make smaller cuts to the music service and the outdoor education service, save Stow Hill library, Underwood Leisure Centre and temporary art exhibitions.
Instead, he proposed that a planned investment of £171,000 for schools’ breakfast clubs was scrapped, and an increase to the schools budget was reduced by 0.3 per cent, saving £270,000.
He said: “It would appear that this administration has managed to attract more protests and petitions over the past four months than we managed in four years.
That’s no mean achievement.”
But the proposals attracted derision from the Labour benches. Cabinet member for human resources Mark Whitcutt referenced the jibe calling Margaret Thatcher a milk snatcher when he said: “Now we have a former leader breakfast stealer”.