5:32pm Wednesday 2nd May 2012
By Matt Smith
IT HAS been the fiercest election battleground between the Tories and Labour on the south cost.
And tomorrow Southampton voters will decide who will run the city council for the next two years after four years of Conservative rule. Both parties face a budget black hole of £46m over the next two years.
Labour, backed by a union campaign, has pledged a fairer future for the city, more jobs and housing, and an end to industrial unrest that sparked months of strikes and uncollected rubbish.
Conservatives hold up a record of council tax freezes, a £3 billion city masterplan, extra funding for road repairs, improving schools, and Sure Start children’s centres and that libraries have been kept open despite painful budget cuts.
The parties have clashed over pensioner council tax discounts and weekly bin collections.
Eighteen seats across all 16 city wards are up for grabs, with doubleheaders in Bitterne Park and Peartree due to resignations.
The Conservatives swept to power for the first time in 24 years the last time when the same seats were contested in 2008.
They hold 25 of the 48 seats with Labour, on 19, needing six gains to take power. Lib Dems, down to two councillors, hope to defy grim national polling to recover influence in the city.
Here the leaders of the three main parties pitch for your vote.
Conservative - Royston Smith
THIS Conservative council has delivered a good deal in what most people accept are very challenging times.
Roads investment is up.
School results have improved. Businesses and developers are again investing in Southampton.
We have delivered the new SeaCity Museum.
Our city masterplan will bring in £3 billion of private investment and create 24,000 jobs for local people.
We have frozen council tax for the second year and cut parking charges to stimulate the local economy.
There is more to do and we are not out of the woods yet.
But all this will be put at risk if we wake up with a Labour council on Friday.
Whichever party is running the council, the challenges will be the same.
The council will have to shrink its budget by over £30m next year alone.
There will need to be more difficult decisions.
We have demonstrated we can take those decisions even if some of the consequences are hard to accept.
To protect jobs and front line services we asked staff to take a modest pay cut.
That wasn’t universally popular, but as a result 400 more families in Southampton have a breadwinner than would otherwise have been the case.
We have been open and honest with our staff and residents and never made a promise or commitment that wasn’t delivered.
Labour has spectacularly failed to understand the challenges facing an incoming administration.
The bulk of the council’s costs are staff-related, as with most organisations.
Labour claim to be able to rule out any redundancies, increase pay for council staff, keep all services in house and make no cuts at all.
How is that possible?
The leader of the Labour group, Richard Williams, flip-flops from one calamitous U-turn to another.
He wants to abandon the weekly bin collection but was overruled by party chiefs.
He wants to increase council tax for some of the city’s most vulnerable pensioners but now says he will phase in the increase.
He wants to add fluoride to our water but has been forced to accept that the decision the Labour Government made is undemocratic.
Cllr Williams’s claims to be able to save £30m next year while increasing pay and ruling out any cuts are simply absurd.
I ask voters to judge us on our record and vote Conservative.
Labour - Richard Williams
EVERYONE now knows that Southampton is a Premier League city once again.
Like you I want the best for our city and the best for its people.
It’s not acceptable to let the bins overflow for 12 weeks, or to stand idly by as the housing shortage makes an even greater impact on family life.
We all know these are tough times.
The Tory-led Government has savagely cut the money that councils use to provide services.
However, the priorities of a Labour city council would be very different to the Tories. We’ll make every penny count.
It’s when times are tough that you need a city council that is there for everyone, not just for the few.
That’s why we’ve spent time making sure we understand your priorities. In the last four months alone we’ve spoken to around 30,000 people across the city, and you’ve helped us to shape our priorities.
Your message to us was clear – a city like ours deserves a council that delivers the best possible services to the people who live here.
Whether it’s helping every child at the city’s schools to achieve their potential, new homes for families, or things that we used to think of as basic – like emptying the bins on time every week and keeping the streets clean.
We’re not going to promise the earth but we are going to deliver what we promise: we will protect and improve Sure Start and library facilities; we will increase recycling by ten per cent and we will protect valued bus routes.
Above all, we’ll do everything in our power to help the local economy – by promoting real apprenticeships, such as in the green economy, and by making sure a new home is built for every day over the next four years and by looking for innovative ways to help local businesses.
The fans, players and staff at the Saints had a simple message all through this wonderful promotion season – together as one. We’re proud of Southampton, and that’s why we want your support on Thursday, to help us build the best future.
Lib Dem - Adrian Vinson
IF WE are to take a leaf from Saints’ book and put Southampton back in the top league, we need more from the council than the same old story, whether from the Tory right or Labour left.
The Conservatives have delivered months of strikes, leaving us with the threat of up to £12m in court fines as a result of their bungled conduct of the pay dispute.
Their budget hits vulnerable people and undermines our neighbourhoods.
They have raided the budget for road and pavement repairs, torpedoed recycling and broken pledges on weekly waste collections and parking charges.
Labour don’t have any convincing answers. Last year they failed to put forward any budget. This year they put forward two quite different budgets, promising a third if they become the administration.
There are reports of serious divisions in their senior ranks.
Only the Liberal Democrats put forward a fully costed budget to protect the most vulnerable, promote our neighbourhoods and preserve more jobs while freezing council tax for another year by rescheduling capital charges, savings in publicity, printing and supplies and cutting costly redundancies.
We will use our influence, as a fully independent party, to:
• Protect the disadvantaged, freeze care costs and promote independence for elderly and disabled people, ensure every child gets the best possible start, and provide constructive opportunities for young people.
• Maintain and improve our neighbourhoods, repair roads and pavements, fight crime and antisocial behaviour, and champion affordable and family homes. We will step up planning enforcement and regulation of rented properties and street cleaning. Our councillors will support residents who want to deliver improvements for their area.
• Deliver a low council tax and fit-for-purpose services by axing bureaucracy and inefficiency and insisting that the council’s commercial partners deliver realistic savings.
• We will maintain a pensioner discount for the less well off for at least a further year after this one.
• Tackle environmental challenges. Our “Green Guarantee” includes opposition to fluoride in our water supply, no green waste charges, boosting recycling, buses and cycleways.
• Promote jobs, support local businesses and create apprenticeships, building skills and tackling costs.
A vote for the Liberal Democrats will be a vote to turn challenges into opportunities.
• Please do not try to artificially skew the results of the poll below. It is very obvious and will result in the poll being removed.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group