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Dorset County Council approve latest £19.5million budget cuts
DORSET County Council has approved the latest round of cuts as it looks to trim £19.5million from its budget – including £10.9m of fresh cuts.
Following a morning of heated debate members voted to approve the budget for the 2013/14 financial year.
Council leader Angus Cambell, who presented the budget to the council, started by making reference to the 1929 St Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, adding: “It is hoped today’s business will not be as extreme.”
He said that, despite the council slashing £43m from its budgets over the last two years and reducing its workforce by over 500 posts, continuing reductions in funding from central Government meant the authority expects to have to save £46million over the next three years.
Coun Campbell said of the £19.5m savings the council need to find in the next financial year, £5.6m would come through on-going savings already identified and £3m had been identified from central budgets.
The remaining £10.9m is proposed to come from service budgets.
However, he added: “Our priorities remain to protect vulnerable people, and support communities.”
The budget also included a proposal to freeze council tax for 2013/14, with the current annual charge for a mid-range Band D property £1,168.29. The move to freeze council tax was supported by leader of the Liberal Democrats, Janet Dover.
She said: “We are supportive of the council tax freeze because we have no wish to put further tax burdens onto hard pressed families in Dorset.”
However, Coun Dover said her party was not in favour of the savings proposed in the budget and urged the council to look to cut wasted expenditure rather than services.
She said a Freedom of Information request submitted by her group revealed the council had spent £34m on consultants and agency staff over the last three years.
Coun Dover added: “We on this side understand that people must be put first.
“Everything we see here today does not do that, indeed it could be argued it does exactly the opposite.”
There was also criticism of a number of specific areas identified in the £10.9m package of savings put forward.
Despite debate amongst councillors, the proposals were voted through thanks largely to the Conservative majority.”
Budget reduction criminal, says lib-dem
LIBERAL Democrat member for Westham Coun David Harris, right, hit out at a proposed reduction of £493,000 from the Dorchester Passenger Transport budget, on top of an existing shortfall of £357,000.
He said: “This will mean more isolated people will exist in our communities as they will not be able to get out of their immediate neighbourhoods and that is criminal.”
Coun Harris also slammed a proposed reduction of funding towards the county’s road safety budget of £225,000, claiming it would be a ‘death blow’ for the No Excuse campaign that has been running for three years.