Council ‘will’ protect services

Residents in Ashfield have been reassured by the leader of the district council that money-saving proposals with less than 50 per cent of public support will not see services cut altogether.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 21st January 2014, 2:41 pm

Kirkby Ashfield District Council Offices
NMAC10-2465-2 Kirkby Ashfield District Council Offices

A thousand people took part in Ashfield District Council’s budget consultation which was conducted after the authority revealed it needs to save £1.1m during the 2014/15 financial year.

The most popular options for making savings were scrapping the Ashfield Festival - which received 79 per cent support - and closing Huthwaite Leisure Centre.

But Coun Chris Baron has now said that there will be only partial reductions in services that the majority of people did not want to see cut, rather than them being slashed altogether.

The proposals will be presented to the council’s cabinet on 20th February.

Coun Baron said: “The recommendations which will be made to cabinet reflect the support which residents gave to the options which they considered.

“Where we have been able to continue to provide a service, we have looked for a more efficient way of doing this.”

The areas where savings will be made rather than services cut completely include reducing the size of the Community Protection team, reducing grants to voluntary and community groups, and reducing environmental improvements.

The Pest Control service will be recommended to become a possible shared service, with the potential of increasing charges for those who use it.

Commercial partners, including social enterprises, will be sought to run three of the council’s park cafes.

However the council’s four cash offices will be recommended for closure, grants to parish councils will be recommended to end, dog bags will not be issued for a 12 month trial period and public toilets will be proposed to close.

Coun Baron added: “Where a service may have to close, such as the cash offices, our officers will work closely with their customers to ensure that there is a smooth transition and that any customers who have difficulties are personally assisted to ensure that a suitable alternative can be found.”

Further discussions will be held regarding the future of the two leisure centres (Huthwaite and Edgewood in Hucknall) which were consulted on and the Ashfield Festival is likely to be replaced by a series of smaller events across the district at a reduced cost.

Christmas trees and lights will not be cut in 2014/15, but sponsorship will be recommended instead. No decision can yet be made about the level of council tax residents will have to pay.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents supported a two per cent rise, but the council must await Government regulations on the level of increase which will be permitted.

Ongoing savings from the council’s programme of service reviews will make up the balance of the savings.

Coun Baron said: “Until the Government understands the value and importance of the kind of local services which we deliver, we will constantly need to look for savings if we are to protect much of what we do for the communities of the district.”

“I can ensure the people of Ashfield that they will continue to be fully consulted on our emerging plans for future years.”