DESPITE “massive funding gaps” in Borough of Poole services, no council tax rise is being proposed for this year and next year.

Councillors will be asked to accept a balanced budget at their meeting on Tuesday with recommendations from a cross-party Star Chamber.

The net budget for 2014/15 will be £146.8million.

Council leader Cllr Elaine Atkinson said that after dealing with £40m of grants cuts and budget pressures over the last five years, there were £34.5m of pressures to face over the next four years.

“We have got massive funding gaps in the services that we provide,” she said.

“Council tax recommendation is a zero increase this year and next year and we are proposing to take any council tax freeze grant that’s made available.”

Pressures include increasing demands in social care and uncertainty over the Care Bill, new school places and affordable housing.

There has been a £4m windfall from the NHS and partnership working with other local authorities and other agencies, such as the Stour Valley joint revenues and benefits service, has led to savings.

However, having reduced staff by 12 per cent, further job losses – under 20 – are expected to take place.

And having put aside £4.5m in reserves to support the next three years, the council has £5.75m in un-earmarked reserves, the lowest acceptable.

“I believe we run an efficient council with sound financial management, prudent, and we haven’t had a budget overfund for 11 years,” said Cllr Atkinson. “And we still have the lowest council tax in Dorset and have had for 14 consecutive years.”

Chief executive John McBride said: “Next year is going to be tough.”

He said they were still fighting Poole’s corner, however: “There is a hard job to do. We are very capable of doing it.”

Groups work together

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Mike Brooke, a member of the Star Chamber said his group would not be presenting an alternative budget this year.

“This demonstrates that for the benefit of the people of Poole it’s possible for us to work together on important issues,” he said.

Among issues they were supporting were funds for apprenticeships, a new award for youth groups supporting vulnerable people in their community and an extra £150,000 to go towards pothole repairs.