Austerity budget forced on Ashfield District Council by Government say council leaders

Ashfield District Council deputy leader Don Davis and leader Cheryl Butler.
Ashfield District Council deputy leader Don Davis and leader Cheryl Butler.

Government cutbacks have forced Ashfield District Council into cutting more than £670,000 in its forthcoming budget for 2017, but the authority has not said if it will raise Council Tax to meet some of the shortfall.

The council has announced its final budget plans which include a raft of savings - the end of cash collection services, transformation of leisure services, changing the glass collection services and privatising Selston golf course.

In September the authority launched a public consultation into the reorganisation and commercialisation of key services and has based its budget on the results.

The Council Tax rate will be set on Monday, February 27, and the council will meet immediately after to approve the whole budget.

The Government reductions in Revenue Support Grant and New Homes Bonus meant Government resources to Ashfield will have fallen by 50 per cent over 10 years to 2020.

But council leader Councillor Cheryl Butler said the authority now faced greater challenges after the Government announced further reductions in the New Homes Bonus in December, as well as imposing a new tax on all large employers - the ‘Apprenticeship Levy’.

The council now estimates it will lose 54 per cent of its funding from 2010 to 2020. In future years the £670,000 target may have to be as high as £900,000.

Coun Butler added: “District councils which rely on the New Homes Bonus to fund services have been especially hard hit and the Government is pushing us to the point where we will have no option but to close services.”

Coun Butler said a council tax rise this year was unlikely but could not rule it out. She said:”We are considering whether or not to have a council tax rise - we have still to work through the figures. Even if we put it up every year it would not go anywhere near covering the money we have lost.”

“We are in the process of looking at what is statutory such as waste collection and cemeteries and what is not. Other non-statutory things like Christmas activities, leisure centres and CPOs may have to go because we will no longer be able to afford them. We have demonstrated in the past few years that we have been able to continue delivering highly valued services, finding savings and making efficiencies. This austerity budget has been forced on us”

The budget proposals will be considered at a council cabinet meeting on January 19.

Proposals for Huthwaite and Edgewood Leisure centres will be considered.

Providing small wheelie bins for glass collection and extending collections from four to eight weeks would save £50,000 a year.

Although the authority collects more than 2,000 tonnes of glass per year, research has highlighted only nine per cent of households put out a blue box every collection, and providing residents with a 140 litre blue bin to use instead would double the capacity of the existing box.

Ending cash collection services at its four main offices, which it estimates will save £92,000 annually. Alternatives would be payment by direct debit; payment with cash or debit cards at pay point outlets and post offices; via the Internet and by telephone.

Handing Selston golf course over to a third party to manage as a commercial venture would save a further £50,000.

A second option would be to turn the golf course into a community park.