Savings set to close council's £900k budget gap

Savings set to close council's £900k budget gap

Savings set to close council's £900k budget gap

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

COUNCILLORS in Weymouth and Portland are recommending measures to close a £900,000 budget gap, including putting up the borough’s council tax.

The borough council’s management committee voted to support recommendations for the 2014/15 budget that will go before full council later this month.

Councillor Peter Chapman said the proposal for council tax was to put it up by 1.99 per cent – the same amount decided by the county council this week.

The increase, together with other identified savings, will help to close a budget gap of £900,000.

It is proposed that money will be saved by increasing crematorium fees, reducing spending on festivals and events and cutting grass less in parks and gardens, among other things.

A report said any remaining budget gap would be initially funded from reserves until equivalent savings were identified.

Efforts to save money are being made against a backdrop of year-on-year government funding cuts.

The council also faces funding pressures including finding money to repair harbour walls.

In the budget proposals for 2014/15, £4,051 of funding is proposed to be passed to Portland Town Council to help with the local council tax support scheme.

Cllr Chapman said he was minded, given ‘recent events on Portland,’ that if the potential council tax increase took place, the burden of collection would fall to WPBC and therefore the money could potentially be kept to help fund collection costs.

Councillors agreed this consideration should go to full council.

Portland council caused outrage with its proposed island precept increase of 1,000 per cent for a Band D property. Town councillors are due to reconsider this at a meeting tonight.

Borough councillors were told that the funding squeeze would continue and the council had taken ‘brave decisions’ to deal with financial challenges to date.

The Pavilion is now run by a Community Interest Company and Tourist Information Centres are closed.

Cllr Ian Bruce, spokesman for tourism, said the feedback he had received from the Pavilion was that it had seen an increase in income from events like the recent pantomime.

He said: “The TICs have been closed, however, the Pavilion is now running a very similar service at no cost to ourselves.”

Cllr Chapman said: “Overall there’s been very little impact on services we support.”

Councillors said they were looking to the future to take stock of assets under the new Town Centre Plan and make the best use of them for the future.

Gardens motion rejected

COUNCILLORS rejected a Notice of Motion brought by Portland councillors concerned about the impact funding cuts would have on island gardens.

The motion, proposed by Cllr Paul Kimber, called on councillors to keep open Victoria and Easton Gardens on Portland and a ‘budget for maintenance be found’.

The council is looking to hand over maintenance for these gardens in 2015/16 and some fear this could lead to their closure.

Cllr Chapman said he couldn’t agree with the Notice of Motion as gardens were down to constant review and to exclude one garden from the process would be unfair.

He said: “There’s no intention to abandon them. I think the Notice of Motion, whilst I understand where it’s coming from, misconstrues the council’s intention for the future of the gardens.”

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