COUNCILLORS in Thurrock agreed a series of alternative budget savings devised by the Conservatives.

The Tory opposition came up with £808,000 worth of savings they wanted to replace Labour’s plan to reduce non-recyclable rubbish collections from weekly to fortnightly, scrap match funding for Police Community Support Officers, and reducing the funding for pendant alarms for the elderly and vulnerable.

With the support of three independent councillors, the Tories ten alternative savings were approved.

A saving of £110,000 by introducing a voluntary scheme for back office workers to chose to work four days a week instead of five, was voted through, as was reducing the number of portfolio holders at the council from ten to eight, and streamlining the senior management structure accordingly, saving £80,000.

A proposal to save £50,000 by disposing of the Adult Education college site in Richmond Road, Grays, and relocating the college to a new higher education campus, was approved, leaving Labour council leader John Kent, fuming.

He said: “Outrageously they voted to close the Thurrock Adult Community College in Grays, with no consultation with the staff or learners, and leave others to pick up the pieces.”

Packaging up leisure related facilities and community halls and outsourcing to an external organisation will save £20,000.

The amended budget also saw Labour’s plan to give each ward councillor £2,000 to spend on a project of their choosing in their ward, scrapped, saving £98,000.

Efficiency savings of £50,000 will be achieved where Transvol and local bus services overlap, and the budget for non-capital facilities will be reduced from £250,000 to £180,000.

Labour was looking at saving cash by sharing a monitoring officer with Barking and Dagenham Council, but it wasn’t booked in for this year.

The Tories called for that to be brought forward to save £50,000.

Another £200,000 will be saved by a proposal to “partially release Vertex efficiencies, including pull-ahead of initial business process improvements”, another £80,000 by reducing the revenue budget for ICT/ Capital projects.

Tory leader cllr Garry Hague said: “Whilst we support the need to make efficiency savings to deal with the financial crisis left by the last Labour Government, the choices as to where, and how, the savings are made are fundamentally the responsibility of the Labour Administration – they cannot blame the Coalition Government for where they have let the axe fall.

“We believe they have made serious mistakes in proposing to cut key front line services that are highly valued by our residents.”

Council leader John Kent, whose group abandoned its original plans to reduce non-recyclable rubbish collections at last night’s the meeting, conceded that some of the Conservative proposals “had merit”, but was furious that they were forced through without careful consideration, along with the council tax reduction.

He said: “In May, we took over a council that had been effectively bankrupted by the previous Tory administration with £2 million in reserves and losing £500,000 every month — you do the maths.

“Our hard work has guaranteed around £5 million is reserves, minimal loss of services — no libraries disappear, no reduction in the criteria people need to access adult social care — and all that in the face of £12 million cuts imposed by the Tory-led government.

“Clearly some of these Conservative proposals have merit, but they needed careful consideration by a cross-party group of councillors.

“But consideration and common sense went out the window on Tuesday night. Instead we are now stuck with ill-thought out, headline-seeking and political point-scoring measures that we have to try and work through — and all for two-and-a-half quid a year each.”