Westminster council

Labour councillors lined up to criticise the council budget over cuts to adult social services, parking charge increases and lack of action over Russian wealth in the city.

Wednesday’s council budget meeting, the last before elections in May, saw both sides pitch their offer to voters.

Council leader Rachael Robathan, however hailed high resident satisfaction figures and council tax rates, which despite an average 5% increase for Band D properties, will remain the lowest nationally.

She said: “We will keep fearlessly on delivering, we will prioritise what our residents need and we will keep the cost of living low by keeping council tax low.”

She admitted that the council had not got everything right, but accused Labour of having little vision: “We sometimes might make mistakes but we will change our approach.

“It’s a tale of two cities. Conservatives brimming with ideas, and them who don’t.”

Meanwhile leader of the opposition Adam Hug used his speech to criticise both local and national government for not going far enough in sanctions against Russia, while calling on the council to freeze rent and council tax for the next two years.

“There is a lack of capacity in government to deliver on sanctions.

“Westminster is Putin’s piggybank.”

Directly addressing voters he said: “Boris Johnson’s Conservatives here in Westminster have been wasting your money and taking you for fools.

“They have become tired, out of touch and incompetent.”

Another one of main flash points of the evening was the state of Westminster’s libraries, with Labour suggesting that several sites, including Mayfair library had an uncertain future.

However Cabinet Member for Young People and Learning, Councillor Timothy Barnes insisted that no libraries would be closed.

He said in the case of Mayfair library, the council was in the process of negotiating an extension for the lease, currently due to end in autumn.

One of the few points of agreement in the chamber came in the form of unanimous support for Ukraine. Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, Councillor Matthew Green used his speech to draw on his time living and working in Ukraine, and quoted the first line of the country’s national anthem: “Glory and freedom of Ukraine has not yet perished”.

During the meeting on Wednesday evening Labour moved three amendments to the budget, none of which passed.

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