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St Helens Council to settle budget as £50m cut looms
2:04pm Wednesday 6th March 2013 in News
COUNCILLORS are due to meet tonight to settle on a budget that will take the number of jobs shed at the council in the past three years well beyond 1,000.
Town hall bosses are having to balance the books for 2013/2014 after the Government’s austerity programme left them with a £40million reduction in revenue grants compared to 2010.
They also have an eye on next year, when that cut will swell to £50million and say “capital funding available for investment in its highways, schools and other infrastructure has been decimated”.
The budget is expected to bring some good news for hard-pressed families struggling with growing bills.
After increasing council tax last year, the local authority is set to introduce a freeze, which moves to a 0.5per cent reduction because of a drop in charges from the regional waste authority.
However, there are increases in police and fire service precepts.
St Helens Council leader Marie Rimmer has pledged to “prioritise protecting services for the most vulnerable”.
However, it means the axe has fallen on other areas, such as leisure, with Sutton swimming pool being mothballed, and libraries - where there are proposals to reduce opening hours across the town’s network.
Budgets in all town hall departments are being squeezed and many council employees continue to work under the threat of redundancy.
The number of jobs lost since the cuts kicked in stands at 1,034 and are expected to increase by several hundred more.
By this year the council had lost £36m in grants from central government, a further cut of £4.5m is being enforced this year and £9.5m next, meaning by 2014 the council will have £50m less to spend than in 2010.
Despite the huge cuts, the council is expected to invest money from its financial reserves into a number of capital projects, including: These are:
- £5m on highway and footpath improvements, which the council says will save £300,000 per year in maintenance costs.
- £1.7m in energy efficient street lighting to reduce the council’s growing electricity costs.
- £900,000 on graduate and apprenticeship placement schemes along with further support for local businesses and youth employment initiatives.
- £70,000 for project management of proposed redevelopment of Ruskin Drive