BARNSLEY Council voted in favour of changes which will see the authority commit to spending for the first time in ten years - with amendments brought by the opposition shouted down by members.

The council will invest more than £172m over the next financial year alongside a 3.9 per cent council tax increase, which will encompass a two per cent rise for adult social care and a 1.9 per cent hike for general services.

There will be £19.4m in one-off investments, specific scheme spending of £13.5m, general capital investment of £10.4m, and £5m borrowing to support the Glass Works development.

Each of Barnsley’s 21 Ward Alliances will see their budgets increased by £10,000, and extra funding will go into the Principal Towns project, the Excellence in Care training programme for front-line social care staff, and improving the borough’s roads and green spaces.

Amendments brought to the meeting by the Lib Dems were resoundingly voted against by Labour and Conservative council members.

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Lib Dem leader Coun Hannah Kitching commended the ‘financial efficiency’ of the budget, while outlining three alterations she said offered ‘positive focused suggestions to benefit and enhance the lives of people living within all our communities’.

She said stopping the Penny Pie Park gyratory development would offer savings of £1.6m to the council’s capital budget, which could be directed towards other parks and play areas in the borough.

In response, council leader Sir Steve Houghton noted that costs incurred after cancelling the project, reinstating the park and payments due to the Sheffield City Region would only recoup £1m from the total £4.6m cost of the project - and would still leave the problem of congestion on Dodworth Road.

Councillors reacted angrily to a proposal to do away with trade union conveners currently funded by taxpayers, and instead invest this money alongside £237,000 into a tree-planting strategy to aid the council’s fight against a climate emergency with a total pot of £582,000.

Darton Coun Sharon Howard said: “Trade unions may be able to pay the full costs themselves, but this council doesn’t want them to.”

Coun Kitching also proposed reallocating the £210,000 funding for Ward Alliances into a devolved area council budget for road safety and traffic regulation orders (TROs) - a suggestion Stairfoot Coun Wayne Johnson called a ‘token gesture’.

Coun Houghton said TROs had already been accounted for in the budget, while others said Ward Alliances were free to allocate their funding as they saw fit.

“I did not expect our amendments to pass,” said Coun Kitching, who criticised the council’s ‘arrogance’ as she opposed the budget proposals. “But it was absolutely right for us to submit amendments to the budget. We are not the administration, not the ruling group. It is our role and responsibility to highlight to the electorate how we would do things differently if we were.”

Lib Dems voted against the budget plans, while members of the Barnsley Independent Group walked out in protest of the council tax rise.

BIG leader Coun Birkinshaw was joined by Couns Gill Carr and Andrew Gillis in exiting the council chamber, while independent Coun Jake Lodge abstained from the vote.