MANSFIELD: District council facing £4.5m shortfall in budget by 2018

Mansfield District Council faces a budget deficit of almost four-and-a-half million pounds by 2018, according to figures debated by the authority.

A meeting of the council’s cabinet last week heard that government austerity measures and an effective cap on increases to council tax means the authority will be unable to operate at its current levels.

The meeting also heard the authority faces sweeping cuts in Government grant funding - from £10,366,000 in the 2010-11 financial year to a predicted £4,500,000 by 2018.

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According to new rules imposed from Whitehall, local authorities that attempt to increase council tax by more than two per cent will be forced to hold a referendum, effectively allowing the electorate to overrule any planned hike.

A report issued by deputy mayor and head of resources Coun Roger Sutcliffe to the cabinet states: “Over the past few years, the council has been required to find significant levels of saving in times when grants have been reduced, income from fees, charges and investments have reduced and demand for certain services has increased.”

In the short term, the council plans to use one-off funding sources and reserves until it can implement sufficient savings, the report states.

The authority has identified more than £1.5m of savings which will be used to balance the books during the next financial year - 2014-15.

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The authority is also anticipating reduced income from its car parks, markets and property services due to the economic climate, as well as less cash coming in from its investment portfolio, due to interest rates being stuck at 0.5 per cent.

The council also plans to undertake an exploration of its own function as a way of cutting costs, looking at the services it currently provides and whether it is the best organisation to provide them.

It will also look at how it can deliver services more effectively, the meeting attended by the council cabinet and Mayor Tony Egginton heard.

In a bid to help boost the Mansfield economy, the council has also pledged to buy in services from local suppliers and contractors to help local businesses, and to provide rent-free periods for start-up companies.

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It also plans to make discretionary housing and council tax payments to the hardest-hit families and will work with Nottingham Credit Union to promote ethical lending.

The report will now be forwarded to a select committee and fed back to full council in December.