A ZERO increase this year in Lancashire County Council’s share of the council tax has been welcomed by its deputy leader and Ribble Valley councillor Albert Atkinson.
Despite significant cuts in its grant from Central Government, the county council set a zero increase in the council tax at its annual budget meeting for the second year running, reducing its budget of £803m. by £33m. this year.
“In 28 years of Labour control, there was never a time when the council tax was not increased two years running,” said Coun. Atkinson.
“We have achieved this by a minimum of changes and aiming to avoid any compulsory redundancies.
“We were all surprised at the budget meeting when no alternative budget was put forward by the Labour councillors.
“Alternative budgets were put forward for debate by the Greens and Liberal Democrats.
“We did not want to increase the financial burdens upon already economically stressed households in the current debt crisis. The overall spending of the council will be reduced by £179m. over a three-year budget cycle.
“This will be achieved mainly by efficiency savings and reorganisation. Reductions have been made in the bloated bureaucracy we inherited from Labour. The major savings are being made in management and administration of £133m. Amongst chief officers we will save £1m. over three years and reduce by 25% the number of managers earning more than £50,000 a year.
“This will be achieved by natural wastage, redeployment and offering generous retirement packages of which many have been taken up by staff and included in our calculations. Other staff members are considering the council’s offer and we aim to avoid any compulsory redundancies.
Coun. Atkinson added: “By outsourcing some of our services through the strategic partnership with British Telecom in IT and H,R we have been able to save £10m. per year.
“We have not closed any libraries, swimming pools, restart centres, schools or public toilets. It is right to say we have reduced the number of mobile libraries from 11 to nine, but reorganised the routes to avoid loss of service. Our fron line services will continue to be delivered to the public with minimal changes.
“Major areas where we are considering savings and changes in funding, such as recycling centres and reducing respite centres, will be will be subject to public consultation.
“Beware of Labour politicians who are scaremongering about cuts as these are the very people who have got us into the economic mess at local and national level.
“They spent when they should have repaid debt, failed to regulate the banks and operated a credit card economic policy.
“These were tough decisions which we did not want to make, but in the light of the economic crisis the Government has inherited, there was no alternative.”