Parties lay out alternative budgets

WITH a budget designed to find �14million of savings shortly to be put forward by North Somerset Council’s Conservative top brass, opposition councillors have been busy putting together their own alternative proposals.

Budgets for departments such as the youth service and adult social services and housing look set to be pruned while council leader Nigel Ashton has said residents may have to take on the running of some services in the light of cutbacks.

But the leaders of the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent groups have all put together suggestions which they say could battle the deficit while still keeping vital services running.

Lib Dem Mike Bell, Labour’s Richard Tucker and Green Party councillor Tom Leimdorfer all spoke to the Times to go through some of the key features of their proposals.

ONE of the flagship Liberal Democrat policies is a �10million capital fund which would help businesses employ new staff, and kick-start big community projects, such as the building of a swimming pool in Nailsea.

The youth service is another area earmarked, with the party saying �500,000 should be allotted to youth services for 2012-13.

As well, �200,000 would be invested in local decision-making allowing town and parish councils the ability to achieve savings in areas such as flower beds and public toilets, and �50,000 to support volunteer special constables and cut crime.

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To find these savings, a new car parking strategy bringing in �600,000, contingency reductions, reducing the North Somerset Life magazines run to once-a-quarter and removing the post of finance director are all laid out.

Cllr Bell said: “All of our proposals have been signed off by senior officers at the council as being legal, financially sound and possible to implement.”

DEVOLVING powers to parish and town councils is a key ingredient of the Labour group’s ideas.

The running of a number of local services, such as public toilets, car parks and recreation grounds, would be handed over to local authorities, while the �2.3million Government council tax freeze grant would go straight into the adult social services and housing budget.

Cllr Tucker said: “We recognise that we have a duty to our local electorate to try to protect services wherever possible and hence we have always endeavoured to be constructive. Our plans have tried to address the main issues affecting people in our town and across the district.”

Other facets of the plans include abolishing councillor pensions, helping local authorities to run the youth service, while money could be set aside to repair or rebuild dilapidated schools, while more costs could be reduced by cutting the North Somerset Life magazine to a quarterly issue.

YOUTH is again one of the priorities listed by the Independent group, with Cllr Leimdorfer urging the council to resist further redundancies and savings in order for the authority to continue offering key services.

In order to do this, he says the council could adopt the potentially unpopular move of raising council tax, which would cause the authority to miss out on �2.3million in tax freeze credits, but potentially bring greater revenue brought in, while it could also reduce its contingency funds by �1million.

Of the potential decision to reduce the youth service budget by 75 per cent, Cllr Leimdorfer said: “This could have a catastrophic effect at a time when youth crime is rising. It should be one of the most important areas and be protected.”

On-street car parking charges have also been suggest, with it calculated that an introduction in 2012-13 would bring in �720,000 in net income in the first year, and �1million from the following year onwards.