Public help to shape cost-cutting budget

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MORE than 900 residents have helped to shape St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s latest budget, which includes £2.1 million in cuts.

Following a three-month public consultation on the 2012/13 budget, bosses are to increase parking fees, introduce charges for blue badge holders and cut staff numbers and other costs by sharing services with Forest Heath District Council.

However, it has dropped plans to axe Bury St Edmunds’ Tourist Information Centre and charge for the toilets in the Abbey Gardens.

Council leader John Griffiths said: “Before taking things forward, we consulted with people on the options. We had a lot of feedback so we listened and made changes to the possibilities.”

The authority received 490 responses to a questionnaire sent to 2,000 homes with another 389 completed online. Meanwhile, 64 people attended focus group sessions.

As a result, fees in Bury and Haverhill car parks will be increased by 10 per cent generating £150,000.

Another £25,000 will be made by introducing parking fees at Nowton Park.

The council is also introducing charges for blue badge holders in off street car parks.

For the third time in four years, Council Tax will be frozen

Mr Griffiths added: “It’s the best financial way of helping every one of our taxpayers. We’re not asking for plaudits but it shouldn’t be underestimated how much work has gone into that by our staff.”

Bosses need to slash £3.5 million in the next two years and estimate saving more than £1.1 million by sharing services and management with Forest Heath.

When asked about the number of proposed redundancies, chief finance officer Liz Watts said: “We haven’t got specific projections in terms of reductions in staff. We will be looking at somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent financially.”