AN ATTEMPT by opposition Conservatives on BCP Council to scrap arts funding increases to allow four new town centre patrol officers to be recruited has failed.

The amendment to the first budget of the ruling ‘Unity Alliance’ administration was put forward on Tuesday following concerns raised last week about anti-social behaviour in Bournemouth and Poole.

But the move was defeated after councillors were told the recruitment of extra community safety accreditation scheme (CSAS) officers was already being considered.

The amended budget would have scrapped the planned £150,000 increase to arts funding along with reducing additional money for community engagement work from £50,000 to £20,000.

Instead the £180,000 would have been used to recruit four new CSAS officers for Bournemouth and Poole town centres.

The move was put forward following concerns raised by businesses about the levels of aggressive begging and anti-social behaviour in the two towns.

“We urgently need to deal with these issues to show that we are listening,” Conservative group leader councillor Bob Lawton said. “They are causing our residents, businesses and visitors real concern.”

But cabinet member for communities, councillor Lewis Allison, said a similar proposal was already being worked on.

“I recognise that anti-social behaviour, such as aggressive begging, has an impact on our high streets,” he said. “[a report coming forward in March] sets out plans to recruit four more CSAS officers.”

He said three would be brought in in Poole, jointly funded by the council, Poole Town Centre BID, the police and crime commissioner and Morebus. The other would work in Bournemouth.

Following this, the amendment was defeated by 40 votes to 35 before the council voted to approve the budget set out by cabinet member for finance, councillor David Brown.

“The age of austerity has not ended as far as local government and local services are concerned,” he said. “This budget continues to manage the £103 million annual reduction in the council’s core funding from government.”

He added: “This budget allows us to set a council tax that makes a single charging structure possible right across the conurbation from April 2021, to fulfil our promise that all households will be billed the same within two years of the formation of BCP Council.

“We are also addressing service inequalities that were inherited from the three legacy councils.”

His plans were dealt an eleventh-hour setback after the Department for Education rejected the proposal to transfer £2 million from the budget of mainstream schools to help plug a deficit in the special educational needs pot.

The move had been opposed by schools and the refusal has instead required the council to make use of a contingency fund.

Despite this, the budget was approved, without the support of Conservative councillors.