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Co-operation only way out of mess, says chief
ONLY by working in partnership with other councils will County Hall solve its financial woes, according to the leader.
Councillor Adrian Hardman said Worcestershire County Council stands a better chance of meeting ambitious savings targets if it goes forward in unison.
As your Worcester News reported last week, a budget gap of £22 million is forecast by 2016/17 due to increasing demands on services, reduced government funding and the impact of the economic situation.
The black hole means a controversial savings project called BOLD, which stands for Better Outcomes Lean Delivery, will now need to be extended beyond 2015 and increased to more than £100 million. Coun Hardman, speaking before a meeting of the Conservative cabinet, said all the county’s councils needed to work together.
One idea, as first reported by this newspaper back in June, is to ‘pool’ collection of business taxes across the county. In addition to that, changes to the council tax benefits scheme next year, which mean local councils rather than the Government will be responsible for managing the system, has given partnership work even more importance.
Coun Hardman said: “We are looking very closely at how we can deal with the changes as we go forward.
“It is vital we get this as right as possible by working very much in partnership with our district councils.
“I’m also very pleased we are working towards formulating a Worcestershire pool for business rates – it gives us a chance of retaining money which would otherwise be lost to the county. By working together we can benefit Worcestershire as a whole.”
For the business rates pool, County Hall is teaming up with councils in Worcester, Malvern and Wychavon to collect the taxes locally, instead of the Government.
Under the proposal, half the cash can be retained in the county and spent on services, while the rest will be sent to the Government and redistributed along national priorities. Worcestershire’s councils have until Friday, November 9, to submit a bid.