Cuts to the information centre service at Bury St Edmunds bus station are among a raft of cost saving measures up for debate as a council seeks to slash £1.5 million from its budget.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council is considering several options for the information building at the bus station, which costs £249,000 a year to run, including reducing the opening hours, removing staff, offering the building to a business or community group to provide a service and charging for the toilets.
It is among a series of proposals being consulted on by the authority as it prepares its 2015/16 budget.
Residents are being asked whether more volunteers should be used to help run services such as parks, open spaces and museums with fewer paid staff to save upto £40,000 a year.
The council is looking to charge residents to replace lost or damaged bins and changing bin collections so recycling bins are collected on a different day of the week to black bins.
It is also considering organising different types of markets such as famers’, craft and plant on a monthly/quarterly basis in addition to those held on a Wednesday and Saturday.
While council leaders say ‘we are all in this together’ at the launch of the consultation, concerns have been raised in some quarters.
Independent Borough Cllr David Nettleton said: “The public should have been asked a wider range of questions. It’s limited horizons.”
He argued that the council should consider other options such as cutting its subsidy of The Apex.
On the issue of increased volunteers, Independent Cllr Trevor Beckwith, said: “You can’t keep calling on volunteers. Volunteers do a lot in this country, the county and borough but you can’t expect them to do what should be a full properly paid job. It just isn’t right.”
Green Cllr Julia Wakelam said the bus station should be the subject of a separate consultation.
She said: “It needs specific consultation as a standalone. I understand it’s horrendously expensive compared to other bus stations but it’s such a big issue for people. It shouldn’t be buried in an online consultation of cutting costs generally.”
She added: “Generally I’ve felt for some years now that blatantly pursuing a frozen council tax means that services must inevitably suffer. It’s no good closing your mind to that. The council should have grasped the nettle some years ago and increased some of its council tax. If you value services, you actually have to pay for them a bit more.”
Cllr John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: “We are all in this together. We do not wish to see services disappear or compromise on quality – but the harsh reality is that they may have to be different in the future.
“We have already made savings of £3.5million per year by joining up our services with Forest Heath but need to reduce our budget for 2015/16 by a further £1.5m – that means difficult decisions will have to be made and we are keen to ensure both that they are considered carefully and that there are no nasty surprises.
“We would welcome people’s suggestions on how we can deliver quality services while either reducing our costs or increasing our income.
“I should stress that no decisions have yet been made – these are just some ideas for possible consideration.
“That is why we are asking people to take the time to take part in this budget consultation, to help us to continue to keep our Council Tax down and to maintain that enviable quality of life we enjoy here in St Edmundsbury.”
Questionnaires will be sent to 3,000 residents while the consultation will also be online at www.stedmundsbury.gov.uk/budgetsurvey2014
The consultation closing date is August 22 and responses will be taken into account during the autumn budget -setting process with the final budget set in February 2015.