Budget gets a final tweak to stave off a council tax increase

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CALDERDALE Council remains on course to avoid any increase in council tax bills this year.

There have been about 230 formal responses to the draft spending plan which is due for approval at the budget council meeting on February 27.

Well over half relate to proposals for closing nurseries at some Sure Start Children’s Centres which fail to properly meet the needs of disadvantaged children.

The council’s Liberal Democrat leader Janet Battye said: “We have listened to people’s concerns and will review which nurseries meet the criteria for closure - ensuring that under any proposals, the most vulnerable will be able to access quality childcare.”

Five centres had been singled out in a bid to reduce staffing costs by £1 million in 2014.

But the review has now been extended to the way all 19 centres operate.

The cabinet has also responded to concerns about using volunteers to provide countryside services, such as maintaining Ogden Water and Jerusalem Farm, at Booth.

“We have reduced the amount of savings required in each year by £100,000,” said Coun Battye (Calder).

“By consulting residents, we have found that they continue to support our approach of putting the needs of our most vulnerable residents first.”

An extra £500,000 has been earmarked to protect front line services for vulnerable adults and £2.5 million more for children in council care.

Christmas lights, the winter gritting service and street lighting maintenance could take a hit, parking charges are expected to rise by 10p an hour in 2014.

Several hundred jobs are likely to go as the council continues its quest to save £55 million over the next three years.

Sue McMahon Calderdale NUT Divisional Secretary said: “The council will be unable to fulfil its statutory duties in young people’s services if they carry out the proposals to make redundancies by re-modelling the school improvement team.”

The council’s deputy leader Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said the council faced an enormous challenge as a result of the Government’s austerity programme.