Savings target nears as council budget agreed

PUBLISHED: 09:10 25 February 2015


PEOPLE will still feel the financial pinch in North Somerset despite great strides being taken towards meeting savings targets.

That was the message from North Somerset Council leader Nigel Ashton, as the authority’s budget was set at this month’s full council meeting.

He said: “The past four years have imposed unprecedented financial constraints on this council and local government in general.

“The challenge is ongoing and unlikely to ease in the foreseeable future, even though the economy is improving there is a debt to reduce, so it could be some time before we really feel the benefit.”

The council was told in 2011 it needed to save about £100million over seven years and now only has about five per cent of that figure to find.

Extra money for road repairs has been promised, but the price of meals on wheels services will rise by six per cent.

However the budget did not win universal support.

Independent councillor Donald Davies, who represents Pill ward, criticised plans to negotiate pay conditions for some council staff.

It will mean financial rewards for people working unsocial hours or weekends will be cut back to save the council about £160,000.

Cllr Davies said: “We had a £1.9million under-spend so we could fund this for another 10 years.

“Staff are getting a kick in the teeth to save £160,000 and yet we are putting more and more money into our reserves.

“This is just nasty and typical Tory party mentality.”

However Cllr Ashton said it was prudent to keep money within the council reserves in case of emergency and the pay re-negotiation with staff would bring North Somerset in line with other authorities. Financial compensation to ensure a smooth transition was also promised.

Amendments to the budget, including reducing the number of executive members, were proposed by some Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green-Independent councillors but were rejected when the full council voted.

Cllr Ashton said the budget included tackling the backlog of work needed on the district’s roads.

He added: “We know this is a major concern of residents.

“We are committed to investing £40million in our roads over the next five years which will not just arrest the decline in the state of the roads, but will start to improve them.”

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