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Three youth centres saved from axe
8:30am Wednesday 30th January 2013 in News
CITY bosses have been criticised over how they plan to spend a £5.8m Government cash windfall.
Among the complaints is a controversial decision to spend £40,000 to keep the mayor’s chauffeured car – while the equivalent of 150 full-time posts are at risk as the city bids to save nearly £20m.
Part of the one-off cash boost will reduce the cuts to the controversial library opening hours, while funding will also be put back into some youth services to tide them over until they can run independently of the council.
Civic chiefs are also banking £600,000 into council reserves to help ease the pain of further cuts next year, while another £500,000 is set aside in case its annual Government handout is worse next year.
Another half million was swallowed filling a new black hole that opened up after the budget was calculated.
A “transition fund” of £1m has been set aside for major changes to children’s social services and reducing the number of Southampton youngsters ending up in care.
About £900,000 is a l s o being earmarked to ease the pain of losing council tax benefit, which is part of national benefit reforms. Residents living on the breadline will keep their benefits for another year.
As reported, plans to introduce a 50p/hour rate in district car parks has been halted amid fears it would kill businesses.
Labour leaders say their revised plans show they have listened to feedback on their plans to save nearly £20m – the city’s deepest ever cuts.
City finance boss Cllr Simon Letts said: “We’re trying to be prudentwhere we can and are trying to respond to the public consultation that’s taken place.”
But campaigners battling cuts to youth services last night dismissed the extra money “as crumbs on the table” and pleaded with city bosses to think again.
Addressing a meeting of the ruling Cabinet last night, Lucia Warren, 16, from Sholing, said: “There are young people who need this service, there is no argument against that, they will suffer massively.”
More than 60 young people staged a protest outside the Civic Centre before last night’s meeting.
In a separate move trade unions, which campaigned to help Labour back into power, split ranks to attack the decision to spend some of the extra on keeping the major’s chauffeured car instead of safeguarding jobs and improving redundancy payouts.
The union also rejected the decision to put money into reserves while 150 full-time posts are at risk.
Branch secretary Mike Tucker said: “By the choices they have made, Labour councillors have demonstrated that they are at risk of losing touch with the people of Southampton who put them in office in May 2012.”
But Cllr Letts said the move is only a temporary measure while a panel of the mayor, Cllr Derek Burke, and former mayors – Cllr Carol Cunio and Cllr Stephen Barnes-Andrews – find ways of making saving on the car service.
Cllr Letts said: “The mayor plays a big part in selling the city to the outside world and especially the cruise industry, and we don’t want to lose that for the sake of a few pounds now.”