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Dorset County Council approves £10.9m of budget cuts
4:00pm Thursday 14th February 2013 in News
DORSET County Council has approved the latest round of cuts as it looks to trim £19.5million from its budget.
Following a morning of heated debate members voted to approve the budget for the 2013/14 financial year, which included £10.9m of fresh cuts.
Council leader Angus Cambell, who presented the budget to the council, started by making reference to the 1929 St Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago, adding: “It is hoped today's business will not be as extreme.”
He said that, despite the council slashing £43m from its budgets over the last two years and reducing its workforce by over 500 posts, continuing reductions in funding from central Government meant the authority expects to have to save £46million over the next three years.
Cllr Campbell said of the £19.5m savings the council need to find in the next financial year, £5.6m would come through on-going savings already identified and £3m had been identified from central budgets.
The remaining £10.9m is proposed to come from service budgets.
However, he added: “Our priorities remain to protect vulnerable people, to support communities and to grow the local economy.
The budget also included a proposal to freeze council tax for 2013/14, with the current annual charge for a mid-range Band D property £1,168.29.
The move to freeze council tax was supported by leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council Janet Dover.
She said: “We are supportive of the council tax freeze because we have no wish to put further tax burdens onto hard pressed families in Dorset.”
However, Cllr Dover said her party was not in favour of the savings proposed in the budget and urged the council to look to cut wasted expenditure rather than services.
She said a Freedom of Information request submitted by her group revealed the council had spent £34m on consultants and agency staff over the last three years.
Cllr Dover added: “We on this side understand that people must be put first.
“Everything we see here today does not do that, indeed it could be argued it does exactly the opposite.”
There was also criticism of a number of specific areas identified in the £10.9m package of savings put forward.
Despite lengthy debate amongst councillors, the proposals were voted through thanks largely to the Conservative majority on the council.
- COUNCILLORS arriving at the meeting were greeted by a pair of union representatives with a special Valentine's Day protest.
Dorset branch secretary for Unison Pamela Jefferies and assistant branch chairman Lee Rhodes were asking members to sign a Valentine's Day card to show how much they care about local services.
It was the latest union protest against the proposed cuts after Unison members joined a march through Poundbury and Dorchester on Saturday.
Only two councillors - Labour member for Bridport Karl Wallace and Liberal Democrat councillor David Milsted from Gillingham - actually signed the card.
Mrs Jefferies said: “We are just fed up with cuts and seeing the knock on effect on staff and the services they provide.
“People just can't go on suffering.
“Whatever service you are in is going to suffer and it's really time for an end to it.”
She said the response, or lack of it, from the majority of the councillors who were asked to sign the card was largely what she had expected.
Mrs Jefferies said: “I appreciate our councillors do believe in public services but how much longer can they keep on with these cuts that are being made?”