Bold steps to plug cash gap

DESPERATE measures could be taken by a local authority in a bid to tackle a £1.8million funding gap.

DESPERATE measures could be taken by a local authority in a bid to tackle a £1.8million funding gap.

Increased council tax, reductions in cash for arts and sports services and selling land, including Meadow Street car park in Axbridge, are just some of the suggestions for Sedgemoor District Council to save money.

At a special meeting held yesterday (Wed), as the Somerset Mercury went to press, councillors discussed the options to plug the gap.

Other suggestions include making 50 people redundant and shutting the council cash office in Church Street, Cheddar and Alpha House in Highbridge, making a saving of more than £55,000.

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Axbridge residents could lose the car park, which provides 63 parking spaces for the town. But in a report to the council, a survey in August 2006 found the average occupancy was just 12 per cent, the lowest of all Sedgemoor-owned car parks.

Suggestions for the land include a smaller car park with either a mix of retail and residential property or just residential.

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But the report also highlighted that a reduction in off-street parking could lead to cluttered roads and drivers parking their cars along the street.

Elderly residents and vulnerable people could also feel the pinch. The district council also considered yesterday whether to increase the cost of the Sedgemoor Lifeline service.

The service is a fitted alarm in a household, which can then be used when a resident gets into difficulty. Anyone can sign up to Lifeline, including victims of domestic violence or residents who live in a high-crime area.

Sedgemoor District Council announced the funding gap in December 2007 after being granted less funding from central Government than expected. Final decisions on the budget will be made at a full council meeting on February 13.

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