BLACKBURN with Darwen finance boss Andy Kay last night outlined proposals to fill the town hall’s £3million budget ‘black hole’ as council tax was frozen for the third year running.
He warned that when a £500,000 a-year government ‘bribe’ to peg the ‘rates’ ended in 2015, it would leave the council with a further cash gap to plug.
The borough will keep its share of council tax at £1,271.88 for an average family home in Band D meaning it will total £1,483.42 for all local government services in the 12 months from April.
A property in the lowest Band A will pay £988.95 in total for council, police and fire services.
Coun Kay said agreement over unpaid staff leave would save £890,000, further ‘back office’ cuts £750,000, while reviewing public health costs would find the rest of the £3million reductions needed.
Already 500 council jobs are to go, old people’s homes will shut, children’s centres close and leisure centre charges rise as hours reduce.
He told the annual council finance meeting: “Since 2010 central government has implemented draconian and vindictive proposals to fundamentally change the financial framework governing local authorities in the North and give to Tory authorities in the South.
“In making these difficult decisions, the Labour Group has sought to achieve efficiencies, transform and modernise the services and mitigate the impact on residents. Our residents expect, need and deserve high quality services, I pledge that we will continue to do our utmost to deliver those aims.”
Tory spokesman Colin Rigby said: “I have concerns around business rates. The collection of council tax will be difficult with benefit recipients now being responsible for payment.
“The four days unpaid leave is a start, but ignores the scope for a reduction in sickness and absenteeism which could save £1.3million per year. In short there are several areas which could produce further savings.”
Liberal Democrat leader David Foster said: “We support slimming down senior management but we believe in slimming down senior posts for councillors. If we did this we could retain all of our school crossing patrols.”