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£2.5million housing and homeless plan chucked out as party rivals clash
3:00pm Monday 4th March 2013 in News
Cllr Snaith - whose £2.5million housing and homeless plan was chucked out as he was accused of trying to purely grab the headlines
A LIBERAL Democrat proposal to spend £2.5m to tackle homelessness has been dismissed as being written on the back of a cigarette paper and thrown out by Conservatives.
Lib Dem chief Cllr Trevor Snaith wanted to plough the cash - from the sale of Wycombe District Council houses in 2011 - into helping the homeless and on creating affordable homes.
But his suggestions for the 2013/14 budget sparked a row at Thursday's public meeting.
Angry Tories condemned the ideas, saying it was impossible to make a sound judgement on something that had only just been presented to them without prior discussion. They claimed the ideas were infeasible and argued they had not been properly costed.
Conservatives claimed Cllr Snaith was being cynical and trying to grab the headlines in the Bucks Free Press.
WDC Leader Cllr Alex Collingwood, Conservative, said the money was not available, therefore the idea was a non-starter.
But Cllr Snaith insisted this and two other key proposals had been created after detailed discussions officers, who had said they were possible.
Cllr Snaith said: “The Lib Dem group believe we need to support those most in need, those seeking work, those homeless and needing affordable homes now.”
Former Deputy Leader, Tony Green, Conservative, said: “Like most things that come from Cllr Snaith, it comes from, you don't have fag packets these days, but whatever the politically correct equivalent is.
"We haven't got any detail to make any decision on this at all, you throw it out like you so often do as a token delivery. I don't think we can reasonably be expected to vote this at all, it really is absolute nonsense. There is no substance here at all.”
Lib Dem Cllr Simon Parker explained more detail, saying the council should take advantage of a depressed property market to buy properties which can be converted into low cost housing and save cash in the long run.
The chief financial officer has assessed viability of scheme and the cash available, he said, after Conservatives disputed if it could be done.
He said: “In the two years I've been here I've heard only from those in distress that this council doesn't care it thinks only of its own and seeks to rid itself of the burden of those most in need.
“The most vulnerable people are those without roofs over their heads and very often the council has resorted to temporary housing solutions involving B&Bs outside the area in woefully sub standard accommodation which should bring shame upon all of us for even considering it as a humane option.”
He welcomed, however, moves the council is making to finalise a long term strategy to address the problem, while Cllr Richards, Cabinet Member for housing, Conservative, said just one person is in B and B currently.
Cllr Ron Gaffney, Conservative, who led a task force on creating the budget, said of the Lib Dem's proposed changes: “I think this does tremendous discredit to those who spent many hours putting the budget together. We have looked at everything, we don't just stick things in pots under the bed for the hell of it. It annoys me beyond doubt that you begin nitpicking. It's an insult to even challenge it.”
Cllr Dominic Barnes, Conservative, said: “You really don't care about the community, it's just about getting your face in the BFP. If you generally cared about the homeless you wouldn't come to us with a proposal at the 12th hour.”
Cllr Snaith insisted the proposals were sound and hit back at the Tories, saying: “I'm tired of hearing you are a listening council.” Former Tory Leader Cllr Lesley Clarke called his comment unacceptable.
The Lib Dems' ideas won favour among the Labour group, UKIP's Brian Pearce and the independents, one of whom, Cllr Ian Turner, said: “The ideals here are excellent. I can't see why any reasonable person would be opposed to using funds that are there in the was that has been in general terms providing we could have more details.”
But the Lib Dems lost the vote and the Conservatives budget as put forward was accepted.
PROPOSALS to create a champion for the disabled and spend £500,000 helping the voluntary sector were also dismissed.
Lib Dems wanted to spend £50k from reserves on a new officer dedicated to helping the disabled in Wycombe and £500k on a scheme with voluntary groups to help people get training and back into work.
Cllr Collingwood said voluntary sector was already getting £570k for the next financial year and Tories again said it was not possible to back proposals that had not been shown to them before the meeting.
There was backing from some Conservatives for establishing a new job for a disability official, with some councillors welcoming the principle but overall they felt the money could be better spent helping disabled residents in other ways.