Tax cut and £15m. of investment

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While hard-pressed county and district councils across the country are reluctantly having to increase the amount they raise in tax, Lancashire County Council has announced it will cut council tax by 2%.

At the same time it has agreed a new programme of county-wide investments, including funding for 48 new Police and Community Support Officers.

The plans, which include creating a new £5m. centre of excellence to care for people with dementia and a £3.3m programme to re-train people who have lost their jobs, form part of the authority’s 2013-14 budget, agreed at a meeting of the full council at County Hall in Preston.

The budget also accounts for the final year of a three-year savings programme, over the course of which the council will have spent £215m. less on management and administration.

Council Leader Geoff Driver explained: “It has been a tough period for local government and there are even more difficult times ahead, but people across Lancashire are having a difficult time financially too and we want to do what we can to help.

“The county council has managed its finances very well, despite huge reductions in funding, and that has put us in a strong enough position to cut council tax while announcing new investments and continuing to make savings.

“The overall effect of our position on council tax over the past four years, if you compare it to what would have happened had we increased tax within the government’s ceiling limits each year, will be to put £100m. back in people’s pockets to spend in the local economy.”

The £15m. investment programme comes in addition to £50m. of new investment announced by the county council in its last budget. The new spending will include:

• £5m on a new-build centre of excellence for dementia care, for people throughout the county in need of specialist care, and a further £250,000 programme to train county council employees in proving care for people with dementia

• £3.7m to fund 48 new Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs), four of whom will be allocated to each of Lancashire’s 12 districts

• £3.3m for a training and support programme to help people who have been made redundant get back into work

• £1m to create four “changing places” toilets for people with disabilities in major centres across Lancashire

• £1m for young people’s services, including a new fleet of mobile youth centres.

Coun. Driver added: “People across the county tell us they are concerned about low level crime, such as anti-social behaviour, and the investment in PCSOs reflects our wish to see that tackled and help people to feel safe.

“We’re also investing in dementia services because it is vital people who are unfortunate enough to suffer dementia, and their families, get the care and support they deserve in what can be an extremely distressing situation.

“The full range of investments shows that even under significant financial pressure the county council can and will make a tremendous difference to many people’s lives.”