Reading politicians traded insults, the leader of the council compared himself to Fidel Castro, and mentions of pop songs were made as the council’s budget for this year is approved.

The long meeting with a series of bizarre exchanges began with councillor Jason Brock (Labour, Southcote), the leader of the council, making an ironic comparison between his opening speech and that of Fidel Castro’s 1960 address to the UN, one of the longest speeches to the UN in history.

Cllr Brock added: “Fortunately I suspect that’s where comparisons between me and Castro must end.”

Then each lead councillor in the Labour administration introduced what funding would be granted to their portfolios.

Elements of the budget included an extra £5 million for adult social care, taking the total to £43 million, free bulky waste collection service, and an  increase of £2.2 million of education funding for the  High Needs Block, which covers pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

A controversial element of the budget was the decision to increase council tax by a total of 2.99 per cent – with 1.99 per cent going to council services and one per cent beinf used for adult social care.

READ MORE: How much council tax you will be paying in Reading this year

Conservative councillors Raj Singh (Kentwood) and Helen Manghnani (Tilehurst) opposed the tax increase, arguing that savings could be made and income could be generated to pay the budget instead.

This prompted cllr Brock to call cllr Singh’s suggestions “dodgy joint ventures which have brought other councils to their knees.”

Meanwhile, cllr Simon Robinson (Conservative, Peppard) mentioned Whitney Houston’s hit ‘The Greatest Love of All’ quoting the lyric: “The children are our future.”

He used this to highlight the importance of getting the children’s services budget right.

READ MORE: Reading SEND school wins right to increase pupil numbers

In a pot shot at Labour, cllr Robinson said: “We were all once children ourselves, and some of us, no names mentioned, still act as if we haven’t grown up, and have the same sense of humour we developed at an early age.”

His speech was cut short by mayor cllr Rachel Eden (Labour, Whitley), who called for him to sum up.

Ultimately, the council’s budget measures were approved at the meeting yesterday (Wednesday, February 24).

All 25 Labour councillors present voted for it, and all 15 opposition councillors voted against it.

You can view tweet coverage from the meeting here: 

There were two attempts to amend the budget.

Cllr Rob White (Green, Park) called for the Winter Watch budget to be increased from £50,000 to £150,000.

He argued that at least 6999 households in Reading live in fuel poverty, and that the amendment would pay for works to install low cost energy efficiency measures in homes.

But his amendment was defeated by 34 votes to six.

Later in the meeting, cllr Brock called the Greens “nothing more an East Reading tribute act to Parish council Tory-ism.”

Cllr Meri O’Connell (Liberal Democrats, Tilehurst) introduced a motion that would have invested £200,000 in the council’s tree planting scheme, rather than the £50,000 already in the budget.

Her amendment was defeated by  32 votes to six.