Council approves tax rise


- Credit: Archant

VOLUNTARY-RUN youth network groups will be given extra funding if they need it, according to North Somerset Council leader Nigel Ashton.

He made the statement as the authority passed its £158.5million budget on at a meeting on Tuesday, confirming the latest round of cuts to public services.

Council tax has been raised by 1.5 per cent, while youth services and adult social care will see the biggest reduction in funding.

The council will also relinquish control of all bar three public conveniences to save money, with parish and town councils asked to decide whether they want to take on running them.

However, some departments will receive extra funding, with an additional £1.26million earmarked for road maintenance and to tackle flooding issues.

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The council has previously been criticised over its cuts to youth services, which is currently subject to a legal challenge from one service user.

Last year, £290,000 was given to 11 new youth networks to help set them up, however, no cash has been allocated for them in this year’s budget.

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Cllr Ashton rejected accusations the council had gone back on a promise to fund them.

He said: “If there are groups that need some additional help to make sure they see it through then we will give it.”

He refused to put a figure on how much the authority would spend, stating it would be judged if and when the scenario comes.

Cllr Ashton added: “We will do everything we can. There isn’t a magic pot of money to put aside. Perhaps if we can get some more money out of the Government then we can put a number on the table.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Mike Bell said youth services were being disproportionately cut, while other spending - such as council magazine North Somerset Life - is maintained. He said: “We know it is difficult and North Somerset is having reductions but youth services are having a 90 per cent cut, from millions to hundred of thousands.”

The council has to save more than £91million between 2011-2018 following cuts to local government funding from Westminster.

It has seen its own allocation reduced by 6.3 per cent for 2013-14, although it is still awaiting confirmation from the Government.

Cllr Ashton said it was ‘a disgrace’ that the Government had taken so long.

He added: “Thanks to the work of the chief executive we have not had to make thousands of redundancies.”

The council agreed at the meeting to abolish council tax discounts for homeowners during the first two months a property stands empty, as requested by the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups in their alternative budgets.

Other proposed amendments were rejected, including raising the council tax by 1.9 per cent to fund more youth services and adding more money to the flooding prevention budget.

Cllr Ashton said: “We have considered the proposals put forward in the alternative budgets by opposition groups, each of which suggested a tax rise, and we have also examined the freeze grant the Government is offering. But the numbers just don’t add up, which is why, with some regret, we are making this increase.”

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