Council budget proposals

Christmas lights and late night shopping in Halifax town centre'Woolshops
Christmas lights and late night shopping in Halifax town centre'Woolshops

THE council’s Lib-Lab coalition has produced a plan to spend £2.3 million more this year while freezing council tax bills for a second time.

But over a three-year period, the local authority remains on course to cut its overall running costs by £55 million.

They have described their £180 million budget for 2012/13 as “The right choice in hard times.”

It includes another pay freeze for council workers, deep cuts to children and young people’s services, widespread job losses and a predicted rise in council tax bills of at least 3.5 per cent in each of the following two years.

The proposals, tabled by Calderdale Council Cabinet, are now out to public consultation and will be debated at the budget council meeting on February 27.

Key proposals include:

A 10p rise in parking charges in 2014 and charges for parking permits to raise £1 million; cutting museum opening hours from November and axing six countryside wardens.

Closing the Connexions careers advice service, with eight job losses, eventually saving £870,000 a year; reducing cash collection office opening hours, imposing a £10 charge for replacement wheelie bins (up to 3,000 a year) and scrap Christmas lights unless sponsors can be found.

Up to 63 jobs could go in 2014 through the closure of children’s centres at Wellholme Park, Brighouse, Field Lane, Rastrick, New Road, Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden and Elland.

Another 43 could go next year with the closure of council-run care home Heathy House, at Holmfield, and 40 jobs could go if remaining home care services are privatised.

Up to 16 jobs could go with the closure of the Chatham Street Centre, for disabled people in Halifax while privatising extra care services could lead to 43 council job losses. The number of school truancy officers could be cut from 13 to four.

Deputy leader Tim Swift (Labour) said the plan had been put together in the most challenging of circumstances.

“We have saved £13 million by working more efficiently to continue to deliver front-line services.

“Like last year, the Government is offering a grant to encourage us to freeze council tax levels, but this is only available for 2012/13, which if accepted as recommended, we need to find an additional £2 million of savings in 2013/14 and 2014/15.

“Taking all this into account, the council will have to find additional savings of £3.4 million in 2013/14 and £13 million in 2014/15.” The proposals are set against a background of substantial reductions in funding from central government, increased demand for services for vulnerable people, especially adults and those with learning disabilities, and concerns about children in need.

On top of this, the council expects less income from fees and charges due to the economic downturn.

Council leader Janet Battye (Lib-Dem) said people had made it clear that they want services maintained for the most vulnerable.

As a result, an additional £500,000 has been earmarked for protecting front-line services for them and an additional £2.5 million for children in council care.

There will be an additional £70,000 to help organisations threatened with losing their grants.

Public meetings to discuss the budget proposals will be held at 6pm today at Todmorden Town Hall and at 6.30pm on Monday at Brighouse High School.