Carlisle City Council's hopes for strong legacy after final budget gets green light

07/01/22. GV of Carlisle city centre. ITV Border
The city council is investing in the city centre. Credit: ITV Border

The final budget of Carlisle City Council has been approved with funding for improvements to the public realm and a weekend freeze on parking charges.

The city council will cease to exist beyond 2023 as Carlisle, Allerdale and Copeland are set to be governed under a single unitary authority, Cumberland Council.

A meeting of the full council saw the city council set out its funding strategy for the 2022/23 financial year. And the Conservative leadership hopes to leave a legacy behind, freezing council tax, investing in the city centre and offering free car parking on weekends and bank holidays.

Speaking on the budget, the city council's finance boss Gareth Ellis said: "Carlisle is on the precipice of an exciting future."

Investment in Market Place will make the city centre "a more practical place to hold event" he said.

"We'll be installing electricity throughout the city centre. The Market Square itself is a public space that spans 6000 square metres. It's a significant space that can be better utilised than it currently is. We're going to improve the infrastructure and the public realm of the square.

"It'll provide enabling infrastructure to temporary pop events such as cinemas in the summer months and possible ice rinks in the Winter. We also have the empty properties on Castle Street, we'll be bringing them back into use, providing a valuable contribution to that Historic Quarter."

The budget was approved but not before heated debate as opposition groups attempted to make their own amendments.

Labour failed in a bid to make four amendments to the budget: community centre funding, cost of living support funding, a bid to make Carlisle a Social Enterprise City and £10,000 for the Happy Mums Foundation.

Councillor Lisa Brown, who proposed an amendment to earmark £110,000 for struggling families, said: "What we're coming up to in April is an increase in lots of things, mortgage and rent are going up. Petrol has gone up, energy bills are going up, rail fares, National Insurance is going up.

"I worry what I'm going to do but I'm lucky not to have to be on benefits. I'm lucky to not have to be on Universal Credit. There's so many people out there that are not in the same situation and that really are worried about what's going to happen in April."

But the deputy leader said that a range of schemes have already been made available to support families in Carlisle. "We as an executive when the deputy mayor was leader of the council introduced the council tax discount scheme. The Labour administration maintained it and we maintained it when we took over and this is one of the most comprehensive systems of council tax support in the entire country."

Green Party councillor Helen Davison's proposal to add a Jubilee Trees legacy to the budget was also defeated. The amendment would have set aside £10,000 to allow the planting of trees around the city as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Independent councillor Robert Betton was unsuccessful in proposing that the executive reconsiders an increase in charges on bereavement services.