Councillors agree biggest ever cuts

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COUNCILLORS have accepted the biggest ever cuts to Forest Heath District Council’s budget.

At a meeting of the corporate services committee on Wednesday, councillors voted to pass the proposed revenue budget for 2011/2012.

The new budget sees the council’s spending power slashed by more than £7million over the next four years.

Lynda Pope, head of finance, said the priority was to safeguard statutory services.

But the cuts will also lead to job losses at the council, with 28 positions to be axed.

In a report to councillors, Andrew Claydon, strategic director, said: “Clearly savings on the scale proposed will have an impact on services and lead to reduced numbers of staff.”

The report also outlines the potential for less funding for outside organisations and less capacity for ‘nice to do’ projects.

David Burnip, chief executive, said: “We have very little wriggle room with this budget compared to what we’ve had in the past.”

Councillors passed the proposals but concerns were raised over the lack of detail relating to specific services.

Cllr Bill Bishop said: “When it comes to full council will we have the detail as to what each committee has got?”

The budget includes measures to freeze Council Tax for 2011/2012, with a 2.5 per cent increase to follow.

The Government has granted £60,000 a year to councils that freeze their Council Tax.

Ms Pope said the council would aim to become more efficient and that initiatives to share services with St Edmundsbury Borough Council would save money.

A figure of £7.8 million is hoped to be saved over the next four years of the medium term financial strategy.

Councillors, including Warwick Hirst and Tony Wheble, praised the council for its work on a ‘tough’ budget.