Council tax freeze backed by County Hall chiefs

County council leader Adrian Hardman

County council leader Adrian Hardman

First published in Local Droitwich Advertiser: Tom Edwards by , Political Reporter

TWO hundred job losses are on the way at Worcestershire County Council over the next year - but council tax is set to be frozen for the third year in a row. 

Bosses unveiled the budget for 2013/14 financial year today, which includes £25 million of cuts.

But it does include a proposal to freeze council tax once more, with council chiefs calling it "the right thing to do."

So far, £15.9 million of savings have already been identified but the remaining £9.1 million is still being drawn up.

As well as 200 jobs being axed, £4 million is being clawed back by reduced at-home care and by promoting new assistive technology for old and vulnerable people.

Around £1.2 million will be slashed from activities for young people, like sports sessions during summer periods and holiday clubs.

And £400,000 will be saved by encouraging more people to volunteer to run traditional council services, like libraries.

Some of the other cuts include reducing management costs in children’s services, less training courses for staff, and moving workers closer together to free up more empty office space.

Of the remaining £9 million yet to be identified, the authority wants to raid the ‘reserve’ pot - money stashed away for a rainy day - and plug £5 million.

Other cuts will be revealed in February following a consultation period.

County Hall’s annual funding deal from central Government has been slashed by 5.7 per cent.

Despite that some spending areas will get a boost, with £500,000 more on roads maintenance and an additional £3 million on the adult social care department.

Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader and cabinet member for the environment, said: “I believe the settlement from the Government is a tough one which will provide challenges in future years.

“During the consultation process we will be listening and learning, as we always do.”

A report before the cabinet said further cuts of around £20 million should be expected every year for the foreseeable future unless public sector spending turns around.

Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: “We were anticipating that hard times were coming and do think, that over the medium-term, that we’ll need to save around £20 million a year.

“We’ve still got another £9 million to cross for 2013/14 but I suspect that when the consultation period is over, we’ll know how we to save it.”

The 200 job losses earmarked for 2013/14 is part of the BOLD programme, a controversial scheme to slash 857 posts and save around £100 million by 2017.

Around 400 jobs have been axed under BOLD so far, which stands for Better Outcomes Lean Delivery.

The budget will be voted on during a meeting of full council on Thursday, February 14 and will be out for public consultation until then.

* For more on this story, see the Worcester News tomorrow.

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