Council budget plans reveal lots of little cuts

Harborough District Council says it has managed to fill a potential �1.6m hole in its 2015-16 budget
Harborough District Council says it has managed to fill a potential �1.6m hole in its 2015-16 budget

Harborough District Council says it has managed to fill a potential £1.6m hole in its 2015-16 budget.

The gaping black hole predicted by council leader Blake Pain in July this year has been covered with lots of small cuts, a delve into council reserves and big money from the Government as a “reward” for the number of new homes built in the district and for the growth in business rates.

Council Tax payable by Harborough district households has been frozen for the fifth consecutive year.

Phil King, deputy leader of the Conservative-run district council said: “It’s been a tough year for balancing the books.

“But we’ve been able to find reductions in budgets and savings and come forward with some interesting growth proposals.”

But Liberal Democrat opposition leader Phil Knowles said: “In just a few short months a £1.6m budget hole has miraculously disappeared.

“I suspect this is an iceberg budget – with only one-tenth of the information above the surface.

“And you have to ask, because of the council’s reliance on Government money from new house building, whether this ‘build, build, build’ attitude in Harborough is driven by genuine planning requirements or is finance-driven.

“It’s certainly a very volatile way of propping up your budget.”

It was nearly six months ago when Cllr Pain warned that the 2015-16 budget would be “the most challenging budget we’ve ever had to face”.

Potential problems included a reduction in core government grant of £450,000 and the loss of £346,000 worth of Leicestershire County Council money, following the imminent cessation of green waste recycling “credits”.

The council says it has had to work hard to bridge this budget gap, finding £540,00 worth of new savings.

There are nearly 50 cuts listed, ranging from a big saving on the non-replacement of senior council managers, down to a halving of the council’s contribution to the Arts Fresco event.

The council also proposes to take £588,000 from council reserves in 2015-16.

But it has reaped the benefit of a New Homes bonus from the government – £540,000 for 2015-16.

And it has secured a further big bonus for a growth in business rates in the district.

“We’re very fortunate Magna Park is in Leicestershire and not Warwickshire,” said Cllr King.

There is even room for some new investment initiatives.

These include an extra £250,000 investment in superfast broadband, a new £250,00 fund for business support initiatives, and a £50,000 fund for a “District of Culture” tourism proposal.

Some of the cuts outlined in a report to be discussed by the council’s executive on Monday

EMPLOYEE COSTS

£206,000 saved by not replacing the council’s chief executive, and two other senior officers.

LIFELINE ALARM SYSTEM

A £61,000 cut proposed by increasing the number of customers and “revising” prices.

TOWN CENTRE INITIATIVES

A £20,00 cut achieved via “improved synergies with the events team”.

MUSEUM DEVELOPMENT TRUST

A cut of £13,000 in the district council’s contribution.

ARTS FRESCO

Halving the council’s contribution to £2,500.