Public called upon to help save libraries, leisure facilities and youth centres

BUS services, leisure facilities, youth centres, libraries and toilets across North Somerset are all under threat in the face of the ‘most severe financial challenge’ the local authority has ever faced.

This week North Somerset Council leaders told the Times every department is being scrutinised in order to meet a drastic funding gap over the next four years.

With another �14million worth of cuts looming, a number of services are going under the microscope as part of a budget trimming drive, set to last until at least 2015.

Rather than cutting services and facilities completely, council leader Nigel Ashton was keen this week to point out that residents who do not want to lose them could lend some of their time volunteering to help run them.

Ideas mooted at a meeting this week included residents providing community transport should cuts to bus routes take place or helping to run libraries as those in Congresbury have done.

The council needs to save �47.3million by 2015 due to cuts in Government grants, the strain of inflation and an increase in care demand for the elderly in the area.

That is equivalent to �1 in every �3 it spent in 2010/11. Councillor Ashton said: “This is the most severe financial challenge that the council has ever faced.

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“None of us were elected or employed to make such cuts in council services.

“It is now the responsibility of all of us to deal with the situation and lead the council and community through this difficult period.

“We need to engage with the public to find solutions in the least painful way possible.

“I don’t think people realise the size of the cuts and we need to get that message across.”

The council is set to carry out a public consultation over the next couple of months and says it feels it is ‘prudent’ to plan for savings in excess of �50million.

Final decisions for 2012/13 will take place in February. Anyone with any comments about the draft budget document, due to be presented to the council’s executive next week, can email