Fears for libraries, children's centres and leisure centres as council cuts bite deeper (From St Helens Star)
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Fears for libraries, children's centres and leisure centres as council cuts bite deeper
6:00am Friday 17th January 2014 in News
LIBRARIES, leisure centres and children’s centres are all believed to be at risk in a next round of cuts which are in response to a further £25 million reduction in council funding.
Fears for the services emerged as council leader Barrie Grunewald said the council is “running on fumes” following the news of more budget cuts over the next two years.
The funding shortfalls mean St Helens Council is also proposing a two per cent rise in council tax for 2014/15. Rates had been frozen last year.
Town hall officers are also studying ways of bringing more revenue into the council coffers, and it is understood introducing that one-off charges for services such as green bin waste collections are among the options being explored.
St Helens Council says that between 2010 and 2016 the reduction in grants will total 53 per cent, amounting to £65 million.
In the face of swingeing cuts imposed by central Government, the council says it is working to balance the books to continue to provide vital local services.
It is expected to lead to a number of unpalatable options being considered.
Libraries, many of which saw their hours cut last year to save money, are believed to be at risk.
Last year saw Sutton swimming pool closed and further leisure services are likely to be examined. A review of the borough’s network of children’s centres is also taking place.
The message will inevitably lead to renewed fears for jobs. Since the cuts began three years ago 1,300 jobs have gone and vacancies are going unfilled because of cash shortages.
Barrie Grunewald said: “The light at the end of the tunnel just gets further away. The latest grant settlement has piled on the misery for St Helens.
“The 2014 figures include a general grant reduction of £10.8 million, which equates to a 13 per cent cut.
“However the 2015/16 is even worse, with cuts of a further £14.1 million, meaning that we are looking at an additional 20 per cent reduction.
“The impact on council services will be significant but, as always, we will be ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our community are shielded from the worst effects of the cuts.”
The way the council delivers services and the way it buys in services have all come under the microscope as it seeks to maximise value for money.
Partnerships agreements with neighbouring councils to share administrative roles are also being looked at.
A consultation process is under way with residents and stakeholders on the council’s budget proposals, with people able to make their views known through sthelens.gov.uk or picking up a special budget questionnaire from their local library.
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