Council tax set to freeze, but 50 jobs to go

NORTH Somerset Council is to make �18.6million of cuts and axe up to 50 jobs over the next year in an attempt to balance its books.

On Tuesday night, the executive members on the council proposed the 2011/12 budget, which includes major cutbacks in spending on young people’s services, leisure facilities and housing.

Among the notable savings are a 15 per cent reduction in youth service spending, the transfer of Weston’s North Somerset Museum to the town council and relocating a number of some council operations to Castlewood, a new office in Clevedon.

Councillors will also be expected to take a hit with �80,000 worth of savings target from their allowances and expenses.

But the cuts have enabled a freeze to council tax charges for next year, with the average Band D property in North Somerset set to still pay �1,150.87 for council services.

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Leader of the council Nigel Ashton spoke following the unveiling of the budget, admitting ‘it was not going to be easy’.

He said: “We are facing unprecedented levels of cuts and must play our part as the country reduces the enormous national debt.

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“We cannot expect to achieve this scale of savings without feeling the difference, but we will continue to develop different ways of delivering services wherever possible.

“The council’s policy is to avoid compulsory redundancy whenever possible but, given the scale of the budget reductions we are having to make, some job losses are inevitable.”

The council has had to continually change its draft budget up to this week’s meeting because of the changing financial settlement from the Government.

In December, the council estimated it had to make �12.6million of savings in 2010/11, but Whitehall funding reduced by �4.7million, pushing the needed saving for the authority to at least �17.5million.

It is part of a budget programme by the council to save �47.3million over the next four years.

The proposed budget was criticised at the meeting by Unison branch secretary for North Somerset, Helen Thornton.

She said past decisions by the Tory-dominated council to keep council tax increases under the rate of inflation for the past three years had left the council in the perilous position.

The proposed budget will now go before a full council meeting on February 22 for approval.

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