Councillors walk out after debate cut short

Councillor David Tutt led the Liberal Democrat walk-out
Councillor David Tutt led the Liberal Democrat walk-out

AN EASTBOURNE councillor staged a Liberal Democrat walk-out after the county council dismissed his 11th hour budget proposals.

Leader of the Lib Dems councillor David Tutt and 12 other Lib Dems marched out of an East Sussex County Council meeting saying the council had ‘demonstrated contempt for the people of East Sussex’ by cutting short the debate over the budget on Tuesday (February 8).

The council approved plans to cut spending by up to £110 million over the next four years, with £37 million being cut in the first year.

Leader of the council Conservative Peter Jones defended the cuts and accused Councillor Tutt of political posturing ahead of borough council elections.

He said, “I thought it was a pretty pathetic gesture. Real politicians don’t behave like that.”

Cllr Tutt of St Anthony’s ward set out an alternative budget suggesting the county council could afford to spend up to £8,140,000 next year by cutting back on agency, temporary and consultant staff, working with other councils and using money which was not spent last year.

Cllr Jones said the £4 million which the Lib Dems had earmarked from last year’s underspend had already been factored into the budget. He added, “Frankly he (Cllr Tutt) is either economically illiterate or accountancy-wise illiterate, or else this was just the most appalling gesture to get votes for the borough elections.

“This was the Liberal Democrats at their deceiving worst.”

At a meeting last month when the county council unveiled its cost-cutting measures it blamed this year’s £37 million funding gap on unexpected cuts to Government grants – £13.7 million of specific grants were withdrawn from children’s services outside schools.

Deputy leader councillor Tony Reid said, “We’re having to find new ways to deliver services and, to be totally brutally frank with the public, sorry, as much as it was nice to do what we did, we cannot do it in the future.”