“INEPTOCRACY”, “shambles”, “farce” were the words used by cross-party councillors to describe Cardiff council’s vote on the budget last night – council Leader Phil Bale could pay a serious price of the spectacle.
After three hours of delay and the hasty preparation of a fourth amendment on Labour’s own budget, the council managed to decide on a plan for the financial year 2015-2016. But Coun Bale was slapped with a vote of no confidence, which will be carried out next week.
The motion was proposed by Conservative councillor Craig Williams and seconded by Liberal Democrats leader Judith Woodman and was supported by at least 25 cross-parties councillors by the end of the night. Among the signatories were independent leader Jayne Cowan and Adrian Robson, Plaid Cymru leader Neil McEvoy and a number of Liberal Democrats councillors.
Coun McEvoy said: “I don’t think the architects of this budget will be forgiven after May [the General Election]. I am very saddened to be a member of this council this evening.”
Labour holds 45 seats from the 75 in the council, which in theory should be a comfortable majority to pass their budget. But despite the apparent division in Cardiff’s Labour party, when it came to the vote, a number of councillors remained loyal to the party. The budget, which was passed, makes a step towards the amendments proposed by the independents in temporarily scrapping the controversial savings made on some social services like the Cardiff Alcohol and Drug Team, the day centres, the youth services and the children’s play.
But one of the criticisms made in the chamber last night was that, after months of consultation, which started in September 2014, the budget was finalised only a few hours before a decision was taken. The delays were caused by councillors not having the time to properly read and make sense of new amendments being made on the spot and asking for time to consider them.
Coun McEvoy climbed up to the crowded public gallery and incited people to call for the vote to be adjourned to the following day, leaving time for councillors to properly scrutinise the new proposed budget. The debate was put on hold and no one seemed to know if a budget would even be voted on before councillors returned to the chamber at 8pm as members of the public continued to shout “what a farce”, “you should be ashamed” and “no cuts at all”.
Liberal Democrat councillor Ed Bridges addressed Lord Mayor Margaret Jones and said: “This is ridiculous, I cannot believe this is not breaching the constitution.” Kent Daniels, GMB’s branch secretary in Cardiff who was sitting in the public gallery, said: “I have been here for 40 odd years and I have never seen such a rebellion.”
Labour councillor Graham Hinchey, who proposed the last amendment to the Labour budget, said: “It was 1991 when I was first elected and no budget that I can recall has been as hard as this one but we have a legal responsibility as councillors to set the budget.”