IT’S decision day for £14.4 million of cuts at Southampton City Council.
Services across the city are set to take another battering as the authority prepares to set its budget for 2014/15 today.
Live coverage of the cabinet meeting from 2pm
Labour council chiefs have put forward their proposals, which will see almost 100 jobs go and council tax rise by 1.9 per cent.
And there are already warnings that this year’s budget is just “the calm before the storm”, with £30m of cuts needing to be found for next year’s budget alone and council tax set to rise by 1.9 per cent again in each of the next two years.
The council has blamed the Government for a dramatic reduction in funding in recent years, which has forced them into making unpleasant decisions.
But opposition councillors have branded it a “disaster”
for the city, and have accused them of doing the Government’s “dirty work”.
The city has already endured several rounds of cuts, including £16m worth last year.
And Labour’s proposals for next year will be the subject of fierce debate at the Civic Centre at 2pm today.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, council finance chief and deputy leader Stephen Barnes-Andrews said: “We are facing a shortfall between our income and expenditure in 2014/15 due to a decrease in the funding we receive from central Government, increasing demand for our services and rising costs.
“This means that spending reductions have to be made, however we have demonstrated our commitment to engaging residents and stakeholders more extensively than before on which services they think we should prioritise.”
But opposition groups have attacked the proposals.
Conservative leader Royston Smith, pictured below, said: “This Labour budget is a disaster for Southampton’s residents again.
“While nationally Labour campaign on their perceived cost of living crisis, Labour in Southampton are actively creating one.
“The council should be prioritising services. They should not rule out bringing in the private sector where appropriate and they should be merging services at the very highest level with other authorities.”
And Putting People First leader Keith Morrell said: “Last year we proposed a budget amendment which would have protected all jobs and services and laid the basis for a city-wide campaign to restore the Government funding stolen from the city since 2010.
“We stand by that proposal and appeal to Labour councillors to reject the Government cuts, and refuse to vote for them.”
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Council leader Simon Letts
This year’s budget at a glance
IF the budget is passed today, council tax will rise by 1.9 per cent from April while almost 100 jobs will be lost.
Forty-three of those posts will be lost as part of the project to streamline the council’s children’s, public health, adult and housing departments into the new People’s Directorate.
And the council tax increase means Band D households will see their annual bills rise from £1,475 to £1,500.
The City Patrol environmental ranger service will be axed, while a number of services will be reduced or changed.
Trading Standards and the out of hours noise response are to be reduced, £110,000 of annual funding removed for the free City Link bus service and the Tudor House museum to have its hours reduced.
Labour council bosses say they have managed to stave off the worst of the cuts by finding efficiencies within the budget of every department.
More than 3,600 city residents took part in consultation for this year’s budget, and civic chiefs say they have responded to that in a number of ways.
Plans to make two staff in the museums and galleries education team redundant have been
overturned, while a pledge to freeze parking charges in the city is now set in stone.
The Conservative's Alternative Budget
The council’s Conservatives say they did not want to use up officers’ time in preparing a
Leader Royston Smith said: “There is a great deal of officer time incurred in preparing alternative budgets.
“We can highlight where we would do things differently and how would pay for them without
preparing a full budget.”
The Liberal Democrat alternative budget
THE Liberal Democrats have proposed an alternative budget, in which they say they would make 20 less redundancies than Labour, rebuild the city’s youth services damaged by last year’s cuts, and save the City Patrol.
They would also reverse cuts to street cleaning and waste collections, bus services and the out of hours noise service.
To fund the changes, they would reduce councillors’ allowances by ten per cent and outlaw council revenue contributions to big capital projects, sell assets and borrow “at favourable rates”.
The proposals, which would stretch across the next three financial years, will be considered by the full council today.
Group leader Adrian Vinson said: “Though, given the harsh economic climate, there are no
soft options and we have had to accept with a heavy heart measures involving real pain,
the Lib Dem three-year budget is guided by clear principles of minimising cuts to key services, supporting the most vulnerable people, and providing our protection for neighbourhoods and
The Putting People First Alternative Budget
After his group’s proposals were declared illegal at last year’s budget meeting, Putting People First leader Keith Morrell said they have decided against putting a formal alternative forward this year, saying it would just be voted down by Labour.