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Tax freeze but cuts to services in Taunton and Wellington
Taunton Deane Council is set to freeze council tax in 2011/12 – but at the cost of spending cuts and higher prices for services.
The council is taking the action to plug a bigger-than-expected £1.6million hole in its budget due to a reduction in Government funding.
Among the main outcomes of the budget are:
- The 0% council tax increase wins the council a £136,000 ‘reward’ from Government.
- £49,000 taken from reserves of around £2million.
- Eight job losses – three redundancies and five vacant posts deleted.
- Cuts to services – see the list below.
- Higher fees for parking, the crematorium, licensing and planning.
- A rise of 6.8% (£4.40 per week) in council house rents.
Up to 60 jobs, about 10% of those on the authority’s roll, were lost as part of the authority’s Core Council Review, carried out over the last three years.
Council leader John Williams said: “We have worked hard to maintain our capital reserves at a healthy level to assist us with what will undoubtedly be a difficult budget setting next year.”
The council has also warned that there will be further budget cuts in coming years.
Ross Henley, leader of the LibDem opposition said: “All the Conservative administration has done since grabbing office last May without an election is to massively increase fees and charges and make massive cuts to services.”
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles added: "I welcome the decision of Taunton Deane Council to take part in the Government's £650m council tax freeze initiative. "This shows that local authorities can keep taxes down and protect frontline services. "Driving down the nation's deficit is the Governments biggest priority but we have made sure that extra money is available to protect the public from council tax rises offering real help to hard working families and pensioners."
The proposals are due to be considered by the corporate scrutiny committee on next Thursday before final approval on February 22.
Among the proposed cuts are:
- Less money for building repairs – £10,000.
- West Somerset Railway to contribute to the running costs of Bishops Lydeard toilets – £5,250.
PARKS & GROUNDS MAINTENANCE:
- Management restructure – £65,000.
- Reducing shrub beds and tree maintenance works – £25,000 in 2011/12 and £5,000 in 2012/13.
- Cutting a Police Community Support Officer – £29,500.
- Reduce CCTV coverage in Taunton’s multi-storey car park at night – £11,660.
HERITAGE & LANDSCAPE:
- Cut in conservation support – £8,000.
- Reduced contribution to the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural beauty, down to £12,000 – £4,500.
- Withdrawal of funds for Somerset Waterways Management, Somerset Landscaping Scheme and Somerset Hedge Group – total £6,500.
LEGAL & DEMOCRATIC SERVICES:
- Scrapping budget for flowers and shrubs, and uniforms – £3,350.
- Cancelling councillors’ yearbook and diary – £1,500.
- Cancellation of various newspapers – £400.
- Reduction in use of Sergeant at Mace for Mayoral duties – £3,000.
- Cancellation of concessionary taxi vouchers and enhance provision of alternatives for vulnerable people– total £42,000.
- Workforce re-structuring in the crematorium and cemeteries service – £37,000.
- Salary savings on staff costs above previous estimates – £50,280.
- Use of accumulated funds and updated assessments in corporate management – £231,900.
- ‘Realignment’ of economic development budget – £15,000.
- Reduction in £35,000 annual discretionary arts grants – £15,010.
- 10% reduction in contribution to Taunton Town Centre Company – £5,000.
- Cut in budget for tourism costs – £10,000.
- 10% reduction in contribution to Tone Leisure, which runs sports centres and activities – £45,000.