Major cuts - residents must step in to help

PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 December 2010

Archant

RESIDENTS must be prepared to step in and fight for the services they want to keep as North Somerset Council tries to make savings of more than £15million over the next financial year - according to the authority’s leader.

At a meeting on Monday to discuss the forthcoming budget cuts, in which the unitary authority must save £42.2million over four years, Councillor Nigel Ashton said in 2010/2011 the council is anticipating a revenue shortfall of £12.6million.

The directors of each council department have been asked to submit suggestions for cost-cutting measures and this has been included in a proposal, which will be presented at a meeting of the executive on Tuesday.

The blueprint, which includes a reduction in staff numbers, will set out how the council could reduce its base spending on services by 28 per cent, with a focus on the first year’s savings.

The savings detailed in the proposal total £15.8million, which is £3.2million more than needed, as a precaution in case the £12.6million target is not met. Cllr Ashton said it still ‘worries him’ that people do not know the extent of the cuts and said that although the specific nature of the cuts are not yet known it will affect everyone.

He said: “We are facing unprecedented levels of cuts and must play our part, along with every other council, as the country prepares to reduce the enormous national debt.

“The arrangements we now have in place for many of our back-office services, home care, transport services and cultural and leisure services have all been developed to protect them and avoid service reductions wherever possible.”

Cllr Ashton also said that care of the elderly and children would take priority over libraries and swimming pools and urged residents to step in and help the services they wish to fight for. He said: “If people are prepared to jump up and down about a library then they should be prepared to help run this service too.”

The final budget will not be set until the meeting of full council on February 22, 2011, and in the meantime the draft budget will be subject to scrutiny by all councillors during December and January.

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