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Councils defiant in face of budget reductions

Hopes that cuts to services can be avoided after government announces budget reductions for local authorities

Peter Moyle has pledged to freeze council tax despite budget cuts

Despite another deep cut in the funding received from the government, local councils across Surrey, Hampshire and Bracknell Forest have vowed to protect frontline services.

The government announced its Local Government Settlement – money provided to local councils for the coming financial year – on Wednesday December 18.

England’s councils will face an average spending-power cut of 2.9% for 2014/15, with some authorities in the News & Mail area being faced with up to a 13% reduction.

Peter Moyle, leader of Rushmoor Borough Council, said despite the current funding pressures, the council plans to continue to freeze council tax for another year.

He said: “The Local Government Settlement appears to be in line with our estimated figures for both the coming financial year and the following year. A great deal of planning and hard work has taken place within the council to ensure we were as prepared as possible for the funding announcement and the potential implications of it.

“We are still working through the finer detail of the settlement and what it means for us, but we expect it will enable us to deliver services as we have planned.”

The 2.9% average cut was announced by local government minister Brandon Lewis in a written statement to the House of Commons last week. Some councils have since released individual figures on what they will receive from the government. Hart District Council will receive an 11% reduction.

Hart leader Ken Crookes said the council had expected such a drop and had already planned for it.

He said: “With careful financial management we shall manage the situation and make a positive budget for next year with no cuts to Hart’s services to residents.”

Surrey Heath Borough Council will see a £457,000 cut for 2014/15 – a 13% decrease – with a further £451,000 reduction likely in 2015/16.

A spokesman for Surrey Heath said: “Although these reductions are challenging, Surrey Heath has a good track record of modernising services, increasing income and delivering cost savings.

“Some of this loss in funding has been replaced by additional grant for building housing. However, due to the Special Protection Area in Surrey Heath, opportunities for house building are more limited than in other boroughs.”

Waverley’s support has also been cut by 13% compared to 2013/14, meaning there will be a £580,000 reduction in the grant.

Robert Knowles, leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: “This is another bitterly disappointing settlement for Waverley and the communities that we serve.

“Although it’s another huge reduction, it is not unexpected. We have been planning how we can best cope with the lack of government support. It continues to be a tough task but we will protect our front line services because we know people value them.”

In a bid to save money, Waverley has agreed a senior management restructure that will save £132,000.

Guildford Borough Council is getting a 13% cut, with a spokesman saying it was disappointing at the higher-than-predicted reduction in the council’s outline budget.

Bracknell Forest Council launched a six-week consultation on December 11.

Cllr Alan Ward, executive member for transformation and finance for Bracknell Forest, said: “The provisional settlement is in line with our expectations and has no impact on our budget plans for next year.”

A government consultation on the settlement is being run on www.gov.uk until January 15.

 

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