Council budget: Learn to live on £65m less

CALDERDALE Council will never be the same again if a huge scheme to cut spending by at least £65 million over the next three years goes ahead as planned.

As reported in yesterday's Courier, around 200 jobs will be lost, prices for services will rise and the private and voluntary sector will be given a bigger role top play.

Council tax bills will be frozen this year and are expected to go up by two per cent in each of the following two years.

There will be a pay freeze for what remains of the council's 4,500-strong workforce.

Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors, who have run the authority since May, say fundamental changes are essential to meet the austerity targets set by the Government, and that means finding totally new ways of working.

The plan they have developed is said to be based on the recommendations made by more than 3,000 people who took part in a consultation exercise in October and the advice of cross-party review groups.

"Our priorities are to reduce waste, improve efficiency, flatten the management structure, streamline services and encourage cross-council working," said council leader Janet Battye (Lib-Dem, Calder).

"We also intend to investigate where services can be shared between us and other councils, and other public bodies."

Deputy leader Tim Swifsaid: "Our highest priority is to maintain direct services to local people, and especially to vulnerable people.

"We are proposing to spend about 1.5million more on services for older and disabled people, for vulnerable children and young people, and neighbourhood services."

Conservative group leader Stephen Baines (Northowram and Shelf) said he needed to see more details about the spending proposals before he could be sure the cabinet had gone far enough in removing the slack from the system.

He said: "The council is in this difficult financial position because of the spending spree the last Government went on in an attempt to win votes at the General Election."