Notts County council has agreed what is being described as ‘difficult’ budget which will see job losses, a rise in Council Tax and cuts to public services as Government cuts in grants begin to bite.
At a meeting of the full council, the ruling Labour administrations’ plans were accepted by 34 votes to 30
Council leader, Coun Alan Rhodes unprecedented Government funding cuts had made it the toughest budget the council had ever had to set and that he deeply regretted the £83 million in savings they had been forced to put forward.
But Coun Reg Adair, the Conservative’s financial spokesman, accused Labour of smoke and mirrors and using the mask of Government cuts to hide their own failings.
The budget is the first since the council announced it had to make savings of £154 million over the next three years and the initial proposals outline savings of £83 million with another £70 million still to be found.
Among the key points of this budget are a 1.99 per cent rise in Council Tax, the loss of 750 jobs - although 269 of those are already vacant – and changes to funding for the homeless as well as the closure or potential closure of projects like day centres and children’s centres.
The budget plan also set out proposals for continued funding for transport for older people and people with disabilities, a re-investment of £57 million of the savings to meet increasing demand for some services, predominantly elderly care and children in care, the use of a further £8.4 million in reserves, predominantly to fund infrastructure projects, and a £107 million capital programme for projects such as Worksop’s new bus station.
Coun Alan Rhodes added that they had tried to protect the most vulnerable people from fullest impact of the cuts.
“These are difficult times, the like of which no-one working in local government has ever experienced before,” he said.
“But out of these difficulties, out of the age of austerity, we have to seek opportunities.”
“And there are opportunities to look again at what we do and why we do it.”
But Coun Adair said: A vote for Labour is always a vote to increase Council Tax while the Conservative plan would freeze Council Tax and save the children’s centres, youth clubs, day centres and household waste recycling centres which Labour plans to close.”
“Our budget plan is sustainable, Labour’s is unsustainable.”
“Forget Labour’s smoke and mirrors campaign claiming that the Government is to blame for Notts’ budget challenge.”
“The reality is that Labour mismanaged the council’s finances over three decades and shows no sign of changing.”