THE long-awaited Worcestershire County Council budget for 2014/15 has finally been published - revealing £29 million of cuts.
The cash-strapped authority has also confirmed a plan to increase council tax for the first time since 2010 - with a 1.9 per cent hike due from April.
The budget, which will be voted on in February, includes:
- A £357 million spend, including an extra £3.5 million being poured into taking children into care
- £11 million of cuts to adult social care spending through the controversial Future Lives project, affecting at-home care visits, homeless support, domestic abuse and more
- £1.8 million of reductions in highways spending, largely through negotiating a new deal with Ringway
- £3 million of cuts to bus services, affecting 88 services on 43 routes and Worcester’s two park and rides at Perdiswell and Sixways
- Culls in staffing, workforce training, management roles, hiving off services to volunteers or other outside bodies, better use of property, and other reductions
- A popular move to give all 57 councillors £10,000 each to spend on worthy causes will be retained
- A 1.94 per cent council tax rise, adding an extra £19.88 on the average band D bill of £1,453.52 in Worcester
A new report on the budget, due to be discussed by the Conservative cabinet on Thursday, says there is still a gap of around £2.6 million to be addressed.
It also says cuts in funding from the Government of around nine per cent and major demographic pressures means changes must be made.
The council tax rise is despite the Coalition offering town halls cash sweeteners of one per cent to back a freeze.
The report says freezing rates over the last three years means average band D bills are around £65 lower than they should be.
It says the past agreement has meant £40 million being retained by householders.
The report also cites some targets the council has, which includes spending an extra £500,000 on recruiting new social workers.
In recent months 20 new staff have been taken on and at least another 10 will be added to that, due to demands on the service.
It also says focus will remain on the A4440 Southern Link Road in Worcester, which is due a £38 million part-dualling, getting work underway on Worcester Technology Park and completing the next phase of the Hoobrook Link Road in Kidderminster.
It says: “The budget is a clear commitment to support investment in key areas of service whilst maintaining a focus on the transformation of the council to deliver and improve the services that residents have said that they value and support.”
The cuts are part of plans to shed £98 million from spending by 2017, including at least 600 job losses.