Westmorland and Furness Council Approves First Ever Budget Amid Heated Debate

Residents of Westmorland and Furness will see their first-ever budget approved for the newly created Westmorland and Furness Council, which will commence operations on April 1. The budget, which was passed on March 7, includes an average 4.99 per cent increase in council tax rates across the area and a plan to introduce a 100 per cent council tax increase on second homes in 2024. The plan also includes a £253m capital spend over the next five years, which will include renovations to the Grange lido and promenade, the Penrith town hall redevelopment, Kendal flood defence work and phase one of a plan to transform the Ulverston Leisure Centre.

The approval of the budget was not without some heated discussion. Councillor Andrew Jarvis, cabinet member for finance on the shadow authority, said the new council faced challenging financial circumstances with a £26m deficit in the current year, caused in part by the high inflation rate and insufficient funding from central government. Councillor Derek Brook, leader of the Labour group on the shadow council, thanked the government for forcing the restructure quickly but not providing any financial support for it. Meanwhile, Councillor Hilary Carrick, leader of the Conservative group on the shadow authority, called the restructure “an expensive white elephant” and expressed concerns about the lack of clarity in the budget.

Despite the criticism, the budget was passed with 50 councillors voting in favour and 11 against. Councillor Tony Callister of the Labour Party called the situation “shockingly embarrassing” but pointed the finger at the Conservative government for initiating the restructure.

The new council will take on responsibilities currently held by Cumbria County Council, Barrow Borough Council, South Lakeland District Council and Eden District Council. With the approval of the budget, the Westmorland and Furness Council can move forward with plans to serve and support its community.

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