Thursday, 1 March 2012

Council Tax frozen, budget cut by 6%

Lancaster City Council agreed to reduce its overall spending by 6% when it set its 2012/13 budget yesterday.

At the same time, its share of Council Tax will be frozen as the council sets its budget at £20.190M – a £1.291M reduction on the 2011/12 budget.

"This is the first budget I have presented in 25 years on the City Council," said Council leader Eileen Blamire in her speech on the budget. "I have to confess that I expected it to be a very difficult task and I approached it with some trepidation. 

"However I have been amazed at how relatively easily it came together.

The Council has had to reduce its overall spending by 6% and at the same time we have accepted “Uncle Eric’s” kind offer and chosen to freeze Council Tax.  This leaves £20.190 million – a reduction of  £1.291 million on last year. "

The reduction in spending has been managed through careful budgeting and efficiency savings. At the same time the Council say vital services for the public and facilities have been protected and additional investment has also been found for areas such as community safety and regeneration.

“Finances are tight and all councils have to look where they can save money, but unlike some local authorities we have been able to do so without making any major cuts to our services," said Coun Blamire.

“I’m pleased to say that we’ve also been able to freeze Council Tax to reduce the burden faced by hardworking families in these difficult times, while also identifying some room for additional investment such as funding for Police Community Support Officers.

“Overall the budget strikes a good balance between helping people and communities in the short term, as well as promoting improvements to assist with economic growth in the future.

“However, we’ve been able to make many of the savings through being more efficient and these are the sorts of savings which can only be made once.”

As part of the budget councillors will be asked to consider including the following growth and other items in its 2012/13 spending plans:

- £99k to fund up to nine PCSOs in the district.
- £5k to fund new brown tourism signs at junction 35 in Carnforth.
- £45k for a new apprenticeship scheme to get young people back into work.
- £300k for the Lancaster Square Routes project, further revitalising the city centre.
- £200K to improve New Town Square and Euston Road in Morecambe as part of the Morecambe Area Action Plan
- Reinstatement of £40K to help develop proposals for a Morecambe Business Improvement District (BID).
- £40k to develop funding bids for major regeneration projects in Lancaster and Heysham.
- Inflationary rises to Arts and Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector (VCFS) bodies, totalling £11K per year.

The council’s priorities are currently in the process of being finalised. The draft priorities on which the council will be focusing its resources are:

- Economic Growth
- Health and Wellbeing
- Clean, Green and Safe Places
- Community Leadership

Common themes which will underpin these priorities are working together in partnership, managing the council’s resources and environmental sustainability.

"We are not freezing the grants to the Arts Organisations and Voluntary Bodies, but we are giving them a much needed inflationary rise and we are hoping that the County’s Second Homes Funding may give further support," Coun Blamire also noted in her speech.

"One of our priorities was to fund more allotments, and we have included  £40,000 to bring in more outside grants.

"I thank all the officers who have guided us through this process and all the Cabinet members who have made it possible to present a Budget that we can be proud of in difficult times."

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