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Council finalises budget proposal
SWINDON Council’s administration has revealed its final budget proposals, which aim to plug an estimated £16m gap in the budget for 2013/14.
In December, cabinet revealed its draft budget proposals, which set out how it intended to deal with £4.7m in assumed reduced funding, £3.5m in inflation and £7.9m of other cost pressures, including increased demand for services.
The document, which went out to public consultation, outlined £13.2m of savings, with an estimated £3.1m budget gap to be closed through more savings which the council has spent the last few weeks identifying.
However, a report on the final budget proposals, to be presented to cabinet on Wednesday, reveals that the gap has since grown to about £5m.
This is due to Govern-ment funding being £1.3m less than provisionally announced, and £1.05m of extra costs, alongside an assumed £450,000 increase in business rate income.
The new proposals include £3.4m savings from cutting jobs – up from the figure in December of just over £2m from the deletion of 70 council posts. The threatened posts are not identified or quantified in the latest document, but Coun Rod Bluh, the council leader, told the Adver earlier this month that at least 50 more posts could go.
Many of the original draft budget proposals have also been maintained. They include £190,000 of reduced funding for children’s centres, £200,000 of savings through creating a fully commercial bus network, and a further £400,000 by speeding up the programme of removing ‘surplus’ car parking spaces.
The proposals assume the full council, which meets on February 21 to approve the final budget, will freeze council tax in return for a two-year Government grant equivalent to the income raised from a one per cent council tax rise.
Coun Bluh said: “These are the most challenging times for any council to propose a budget. “No councillor is elected to make cuts.
“However, harsh necessity has compelled this administration to make difficult decisions for these demanding times to promote economic development and protect the most vulnerable.”
Coun Jim Grant, the Labour group leader, said: “Because of the Govern-ment’s additional cuts announced at the end of December and the £8m debt charges the council has to spend next year due to reckless borrowing on Wichelstowe and the new town centre car park, it is disappointing that further job losses and cuts in frontline services have to be made.”