Council determined to protect key services

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DETERMINED Ashfield District Council has declared that it wants to protect frontline services in Hucknall as it bids to save £5 million in the next five years.

As reported in last week’s Dispatch, the council says it needs to cut its day-to-day running costs to combat a reduction in funding from central government.

Fears have been voiced that this will mean a downgrading of crucial services, such as rubbish collection, recycling and the maintenance of parks and leisure venues in Hucknall and the rest of the district.

But Ashfield Council insists such cuts are not part of its plan. Instead, if possible, the council wants to improve the services it offers by cutting down on waste and increasing value for money.

Coun Trevor Locke (Lab), of Hucknall, who is lead member for finance, said: “If we can achieve our targets to make the services we provide more efficient, then we will be able to reduce our budget without detriment to the services we provide, which our residents continually tell us are valued by them.

“Indeed, we hope that once our key services have been reviewed, residents will enjoy an improved level of service from the council.”

Ashfield’s Cabinet recently reviewed its medium-term financial strategy. It was told savings needed in the coming years were £1.9 million in the financial year from April 1 2012 to March 31 2013. Savings required in subsequent years were £1.6 million in 2013/14, £1.3 million in 2014/15 and £200,000 in 2015/16).

Details of exactly how these are going to be achieved have not been finalised.

However all of the council’s services are being reviewed and it is believed to be inevitable that some staff jobs will be lost.

Other ideas particularly under scrutiny include potentially increasing charges for services provided by the council.

Councillors want to see improved efficiency in identifying benefit cheats and how it uses regeneration funds — partly by cutting down on unnecessary waste and bureaucracy.

There will also be a review of assets the council holds, including buildings in Hucknall, to see whether non-essential sites can be sold off.

Customer-service centres could also be amalgamated.

An annual report is due to be published soon. Residents will be invited to voice their views on how the council should spend its money in the future.

A council spokesman added: “The aim is to make the services lean and cost effective, with improved service to the customer.

“Levels of management are being reviewed, and some services are being discussed with Mansfield District Council with a view to sharing them and thus reducing costs.”