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Council's back to basics move

PUBLISHED: 09:43 03 February 2009 | UPDATED: 07:57 01 August 2010

A DISTRICT council leader last night said his authority was going "back to basics" as it braced itself to make savings of more than £1.5m.

Officials at South Norfolk Council have already placed a freeze on recruitment as a result of its income being squeezed by the credit crunch.

A DISTRICT council leader last night said his authority was going “back to basics” as it braced itself to make savings of more than £1.5m.

Officials at South Norfolk Council have already placed a freeze on recruitment as a result of its income being squeezed by the credit crunch. But the local authority is set to make further “economies”, despite proposing a 2.9pc rise in council tax for the 2009/10 financial year.

Leader John Fuller yesterday said the council was set to undergo a restructuring process and become more “businesslike” over the next six months as it prepared to weather the recession.

Members of the council's cabinet will discuss a 2.9pc rise in council tax on Monday, which would add £4 on an average band D property. The final figure will be set at a meeting of the full council on February 25.

The proposed council tax increase comes as a result of “significant” reductions in income from the interest on cash investments, a drop in planning application monies, reduced building control and leisure centre incomes, and an increase in council tax benefit and housing benefit claimants.

In a report to councillors, Stephen Beeson, director of finance, property and IT, said South Norfolk Council had already found “efficiency savings” of £434,000 through a review of staffing, grants, training, printing and stationary budgets.

But the council's management team had also identified savings of more than £1m by not filling non-essential vacant posts over the next six months, cutting its property maintenance budget, and slashing a discretionary grants scheme by almost half.

Mr Fuller said the council was preparing for the economic downturn to last for five years.

“I think our residents should be reassured that we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best and that means that we have to make economies. We have always prided ourselves in providing tip-top excellent service and it may mean that we give a less luxurious service in the future,” he said.

Officers and members are also set to review the council's budget in September as they prepare for the long-term impact of the recession. The council tax rise comes after towns and villages across south Norfolk also set an average parish precept increase of 13.3pc.

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