Sefton Council has frozen Council Tax for the third year running – although cuts have had to be made to several services to meet further significant reductions in Government funding.
At a meeting of the Full Council on Thursday, February 28 councillors agreed a balanced budget plan for the next two years, which will reduce local spending by another £50.7 million.
The meeting had to be adjourned for around an hour as a protest, principally around national welfare reform, took place. The adjournment was to allow the protestors to leave the chamber.
The meeting then continued in a separate room with remaining members of the public present. Although the council was only required to set a one-year budget, the two-year plan has been developed to allow time to re-define and prioritise services and re-shape the council to help it meet future needs.
A number of services will again be reduced or stopped, as a result of the reductions in Government funding with a total loss of around £114 million since 2010. Sefton Council has again run an enormous consultation exercise into a number of different budget options, including a review of library services, parking, children and adult social care, day centres and many others. Several options have been halted, or re-defined, as a result of consultation including a proposed increase in junior sports pitch fees and the potential closure of all the borough’s public toilets.
Despite reductions to a number of areas of work, Sefton Council will continue to provide a wide range of services for residents, businesses and visitors. Significant investment continues to be made across the borough with the ongoing development of projects like the Thornton Switch Island Link Road and the multi million pound Atkinson cultural centre, which is due to open in the Spring.
As part of the two-year plan a special £1 million Community Transition Fund has also been set up to allow for services, which are currently run by the council, to be handed over to community ownership to secure their future delivery.
Another £1 million pot has also been put aside to allow the council to invest in priority “one-off” projects centred around improving town-centres, youth employment and developing the local economy.
Cllr Peter Dowd, Leader of Sefton Council, said: “We are living through some of the most challenging times ever witnessed in Local Government. Setting a two year plan has been a massive challenge as we face unprecedented reductions in Government spending.
“This means that local councillors have to step up and make very difficult decisions around which services are the biggest priorities for our residents. This has not been an easy task and many people will be left disappointed by some of the service reductions we have had to make.
“But we have been making these decisions, not matter how unpalatable, with our eyes open. Sefton has once again carried out a major consultation and we have listened to people’s views.
“Having a two year plan in place means that we can continue to re-define the size and shape of the council to ensure that it is in the best possible position to deliver for our communities in the future.” opean Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funded project aimed at improving energy efficiency in some of the most deprived communities in Merseyside and Halton.
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