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Council plans to save £10m in 2015/16 largely through efficiency measures

Dollarphotoclub 66073421Herefordshire Council’s cabinet will discuss a report on the council’s budget for the financial year starting in April 2015 at its meeting on 22 January 2015.  A report from the council’s chief financial officer published today sets out the need to make further savings next year and in future years.

In the three years up to 2013/14 the council has saved £34m and is on target to save a further £15m in the current financial year. The savings are necessary because of a combination of reductions in grants from central government, increases in demand for council services and increasing costs to the council.

The report proposes increasing the council’s share of council tax by 1.9%, reducing spending on adults and wellbeing directorate by £5.5m, in children’s wellbeing by £1.1m and reducing spending on other services by £3.6m next year. The majority of the savings will be found through efficiency measures like improved used of technology rather than cuts to frontline services.

The report recommends that the council increase spending in some priority areas, including £200k allocated to re-introduce rural bus services that received significant local public support and have a potential longer term growth opportunity,  £400k has been identified from savings to maintain increased grass cutting in parks and on verges and the proposals recommend investing £100k in vital work to prevent child sexual exploitation.

The report also looks ahead to future years and says the council will have to plan to make more savings to meet further reductions in government grant and increased demand.

Councillor Tony Johnson leader of Herefordshire Council said:

"The Council has a legal duty to balance its books. Increasing costs, increasing demand and reductions in government grants mean that although we have made significant progress in making efficiencies to how we operate we are also recommending both reductions in expenditure on services and an increase in the level of council tax charged.”

“Government has offered councils a one-off grant if we freeze council tax, however taking the grant means we would need to identify another £750k of savings compared to increasing council tax by 1.9%.  I’ve looked very closely at their offer but I’m afraid because of how the government grant allocation system works, Herefordshire and other rural authorities do not get the same level of grant as some other councils; particularly London boroughs. This is despite the fact that in many instances our geography means some services, such as road maintenance and social care cost more to deliver. The scheme on offer doesn’t add up for Herefordshire so unfortunately we are recommending it’s rejected." 

“We consulted local people over the summer as we started to develop the budget for this year. The council received a clear message that grass cutting was important to local people and they felt we could do more to reduce our back office costs. The proposed budget takes those comments into account and should enable the council to deliver its priorities of protecting vulnerable people and growing the local economy while it makes the necessary savings”

Cabinet does not have the final say on the council’s budget. Following the discussion on 22 January, Cabinet will make recommendations to the full council which will discuss the matter on 6 February 2015. The Council will set the final rate of Council Tax on 6 March which will include the amount charged by parish councils, the Fire Authority and the Police and Crime Commissioner as well as the charge made by Herefordshire Council.

 

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