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Dorset County Council to balance books by cutting services once again
DORSET County Council is set to wield the axe on services again as it looks to balance its books.
With continued reductions in funding from central Government, the authority claims it has to find around £11.5million in further savings in the next financial year.
Areas likely to come under threat include the Dorset Road Safe partnership and rural bus routes.
In the current financial year the authority set a target of saving £15m, of which it claims £1.669m is unlikely to be achieved.
That was after the council had saved around £28m in the 2011/12 financial year but the incessant cuts in local government funding means the authority is again having to look at ways to cut costs.
Savings totalling £10.9m have been identified in a report to go before the cabinet tomorrow, leaving a further £600,000 to be found.
More general savings proposed include a review and reduction of the adult services budget to cut £347,000 and a fundamental review of children’s services to save £700,000.
Other proposals include a reduction of £242,000 in resource budgets to support schools, specifically schools causing concern, and a saving of £500,000 through a restructure of learning disability services with the potential closure of Douglas Jackman House residential home in Dorchester and Alexandra Road in Weymouth and a move towards supported living accommodation.
A number of areas where savings are earmarked are identified as carrying risks, including the proposed reduction of funding to the Dorset Strategic Road Safety Partnership of £225,000.
The report to be considered by members states: “This level of reduction will mean that the partnership is unlikely to continue in its current form.”
It adds that there will also be a ‘possible impact on road safety performance’.
For the last three years Dorset Road Safe had been co-ordinating the high profile No Excuse campaign in a bid to educate drivers on road safety.
Another area where a risk is identified is a reduction of £493,000 in the Dorset Passenger Transport budget.
The report claims a major review of subsided bus routes is to be undertaken in conjunction with operators and the independent Travelwatch organisation in a bid to identify poorly used routes and ‘restructure with alternative provision where appropriate’.
The report adds: “While a more rational, cost effective and sustainable network will be established it is possible that a number of poorly patronised services will have to be discontinued.”
- Union representatives are set to take to the streets of Dorchester and Poundbury to voice their objection to the latest round of cuts this weekend.
The Dorchester, Weymouth, Portland and Districts Trades Union Council has organised a march that will start at Poundbury’s Great Field at 10am on Saturday and march past Dorset County Hospital before finishing with a demonstration at the bottom of South Street.
Tough times ahead as cuts hit road safe partnership
THE chairman of the Dorset Road Safe partnership admits it is facing ‘challenging and difficult times’.
The Dorset Road Safe partnership is funded by a number of local authorities and works with various local organisations, including Dorset Police.
In response to the county council’s proposed reductions in funding, Assistant chief constable James Vaughan said: “There are challenging and difficult budget reductions across the public sector which impact on service delivery.
“The Dorset Road Safe partnership will need to consider the impact of any funding reductions when we next meet.
“As the Dorset Road Safe chair, it is not for me to comment on the budget decisions made by Dorset County Council, particularly as their decision is yet to be ratified by the cabinet.
“However, I would like to reassure the public that Dorset Road Safe will remain committed to reducing the number of road traffic casualties on Dorset's roads.”
Pete Bower, who survived a major crash on Portland Beach Road, said he would be concerned if cuts to the road safety partnership meant less police patrolling the county’s roads.
He said: “Naturally if the police are not patrolling the roads like one would expect them to be it would possibly mean more people think they are going to get away with thing.
“Would it tempt people to still want to do things like drink driving?”
Director of Travelwatch South West Gordon Edwards said the watchdog recognised the need for a review of bus services as the current network was ‘fossilised’ and ‘not fit for purpose’.
He said: “We have identified routes and journeys which are hardly used, whereas we have identified others where we think there needs to be additional journeys.”
Mr Edwards added: “We recognise that the county council is under severe financial pressure and to be fair to Dorset we have not seen anything like the scale of cuts we have seen across the border in Somerset.”
Dorset Road Safe is funded by Government grant through the three Local Highway Authorities; Dorset County Council, Borough of Poole and Bournemouth Borough Council.
In addition to this, the partnership extends to include Dorset Police, the Highways Agency, Her Majesty’s Court Service, Crown Prosecution Service, NHS South West, Dorset Fire & Rescue Service and LV= Streetwise.