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Claims £2.5m 'black hole' could be created in city council finances
WARNINGS are being fired about a £2.5 million 'black hole' which could open up in the finances of Worcester City Council.
Councillor Richard Boorn, Labour's former finance chief, says too many giveaway deals by the new Conservative administration could place the Guildhall finances in a precarious position.
Since wrestling back power from Labour last month the city's Tories have announced a raft of swift changes, including:
- Hefty reductions in car parking charges across Worcester, including a return to a flat £1 fee after 7pm and 40p for half-an-hour at selected sites
- No cuts to street sweeping, cleaning and litter bin rounds, which were facing an £80,000 reduction by 2016
- The reversal of a £10,000 cut to playground maintenance, most of which goes on replacing old equipment once it reaches the end-of-life
Cllr Boon claims the moves, combined with a Tory aim of freezing council tax next year, will create a "£2.5 million deficit" by 2018.
His suggestion has been rubbished by the leadership, which insists the moves are popular ones and say they will produce balanced budgets regardless.
Cllr Boorn, speaking during a full council meeting, said "short term financial planning" would come back to haunt them.
"Please can you explain how this deficit will be addressed," he said.
"I am looking for an answer as to how you'll go about sorting out a £2.5 million deficit."
Councillor Chris Mitchell, the new cabinet member for finance, said the Conservatives have a "proven track record of managing the council's finances" going back over a decade.
He said Labour moves to whack up parking prices and council tax were "unpopular" moves they would not repeat.
"We won't be raising taxes or making cuts unnecessarily," he said.
"This is the model we intend to continue."
After the meeting Cllr Mitchell said he believed the gap was more like £1 million.
The new-look administration wants to return to previous proposals to see if any services can be handed to outside providers, known as commissioning.
Under current predictions, the council needs to save £4.1 million by 2019 to balance the books.