Conservative’s proposal to spend council tax support cash on solar panels branded ‘shameful’ by Labour

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Proposals to spend a £1.2m council tax support fund on solar panels to bring down energy costs for residents has been branded ‘shameful’ by opposition councillors.

During Rotherham Council’s budget meeting on March 1, leader of the borough’s Conservative Group, Councillor Simon Ball, proposed an amendment to Labour’s budget.

The Conservative group suggested that council tax be increased by only two per cent, in comparison to Labour’s proposal of four, and that the council uses £7.5m from its reserves to close the gap.

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Their proposal would also see a fund of £1.2m, which is used to to provide support to low income working age households, instead used to fund grants of up to £3,000 to 400 households for solar panels on their homes, who could demonstrate that they they “are suffering financial difficulty due to the impact of rising energy costs”.

Councillor Simon Ball, proposed an amendment to Labour’s budget.Councillor Simon Ball, proposed an amendment to Labour’s budget.
Councillor Simon Ball, proposed an amendment to Labour’s budget.

The Conservatives also hoped to increase the council’s budget for street cleaning, road repairs and maintenance, and purchase 20 electricvehicles for the council’s fleet.

Coun Ball told the meeting that the amendment had been fully costed, and was based on ‘fairness, and the need to ensure that all of our communities feel they are responsible for holding the council to account for the delivery of services.

“The amendment is fairer for all, and provides further funding for those services that all councillors spend time having to report.”

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He added that the council needs to ‘be seen to be fair in our approach to everyone in the borough who is going through difficult times’.

Seconding the proposals, councillor Lewis Mills, added that RMBC ‘needs to support, and take off financial pressure that all of our residents are facing’.

Councillor Zachary Collingham added that the Conservatives were ‘trying to stand with not just one section of the community, not carving people up. This is a situation that everyone is in, and this is the ony single mechanism that he council has to reach into every household’s life and stand behind them.”

The proposals were met with opposition from Labour councillors, with coun Dominic Beck branding the removal of the top up scheme ‘shameful’, adding that it would ‘make poorer people poorer’.

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Councillor Emma Hoddinott added: “To take this money out of those households in this borough is absolutely scandalous”.

Independent Councillor Michael Bennett-Sylvester said the proposal was an ‘attempted mugging’ by the Conservatives, who he accused of having an ‘ideological even pathological hatred of the poor’.

“You’re an absolute disgrace for targeting these people,” he added.

“Taking £117 out of the pockets of people in my ward – people who have gone without gas and electric for days, people that are going to foodbanks and crying at the shame of having to go to foodbanks, so we can put a few solar panels somewhere.”

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Coun Chris Read, council leader, said the proposals would create a £2.5m hole in the budget each year, and that by 2025, the council would face cuts to services.

“It would be a £117 rise in council tax for 14,000 households on the lowest incomes.”

The Conservative’s proposal was voted down, and Labour’s budget was agreed.