Budget protecting frontline services

This Is Wiltshire: Council leader Jane Scott has had to trim another £27million off spending for 2013/14 Council leader Jane Scott has had to trim another £27million off spending for 2013/14

Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott said the council’s proposed budget for next year will protect frontline services, despite making cuts of £27million.

The council has received a cut in funding from central Government by £9.8m for 2013/14 or three per cent.

The amount of savings the Tory run council proposes to make is £27.6m.

The council made savings of £32m this current financial year and £33m the year before as part of the cuts to public spending by the Government.

In 2013/14 the council is proposing to cut 200 jobs, although said some of the affected posts were vacant while others were filled by agency staff.

Since it became a unitary council in 2009 it has cut 614 posts, including the chief executive and two corporate director. The savings of £27m include £4.5m in buying services, such as changing the highway contract, and £10.3m in efficiencies across services.

Cllr Scott said moving from five councils in Wiltshire to one meant it had better buying power and was the reason why it was managing to make savings in back office functions. She it had also resulted in a freezing of council tax, which is also proposed for 2013/14.

The year after next the council is predicting making savings of £22.5m and Cllr Scott admitted it was getting harder to reduce costs.

She said: “Year on year it will become more difficult and I don’t think we have got to the worst bit yet.

“Public services will be hit in the new spending review so we have got to plan for that. I think I’m confident for the next couple of years that we can manage it. “ Cllr Scott said back office costs had been cut from 19 per cent when there were five councils in 2009 to nine per cent this year.

On council tax, which will be £1,222.43 for a Band D property, Cllr Scott said: “This will be the fourth year we have not had an increase in the council tax.

“I would have loved to have lowered council tax but at least we have managed to keep it at nought per cent.”

By the end of the spending review period from 2011-2015 Wiltshire Council will have had its funding cut by the Government by 22 per cent.

The county’s lobbying for extra funding from the Government to reflect the costs associated with being a rural county had paid off as it has received £362,000, the third largest sum awarded to rural councils in the UK.

Of this, £200,000 will be put into school support services, which is likely to result in fewer redundancies than previously thought, and £162,000 spent on youth projects.

Cllr Scott said the council will have to increase working with other organisations such as the police and the new Clinical Commissioning Group to save money.

It will be encouraging more people to volunteer to help with services, such as good neighbour schemes and maintaining public rights of way.

The council’s reserves are predicted to be about £12.5m at the end of March, after using £1.7m this year for looking after children in care.

Cllr Scott defended the level of money.

“We are not a fat cat authority, £12 million is not a lot to fall back on,” she said. “The reserves are there to cover risk and we very rarely have to dip into them.”

Some fees and charges for service will rise by 2.6 per cent while the average rent increase for council housing tenants will be £2.92 per week, or 3.4 per cent.

The proposed budget will be finally decided on Tuesday at the Civic Centre in Trowbridge.

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