LEADING North Yorkshire councillors have agreed a budget which could see council tax rise by 1.99 per cent and some libraries, children’s centres and recycling sites close.
The proposals, aimed at saving £20 million in 2013/14, were discussed today by North Yorkshire County Council’s executive today and a final decision will be made by the full authority on February 19. The planned council tax increase, after a four-freeze, would earn the council £4.6 million but it will still have to use £1.3 million from its reserves to balance the books.
The library service will be reviewed, with some libraries possibly closing unless communities take them over, and some children’s centres also face closure while a “significant” number of jobs will be lost. The winter maintenance budget will be reduced by £750,000 - although the number of roads which get severe weather protection will not be reduced - and household waste recycling centres may be transferred to commercial operators or charges introduced, although some may shut.
The council tax proposal and other budget plans may have to be rethought if the Government’s ‘trigger point’ for a referendum is an increase of less than two per cent, with a decision expected to be announced either this week or next week. The authority is planning to put money into extra care housing for the elderly and the Superfast North Yorkshire broadband programme, while a £5 million programme of road repairs will be carried out to repair damage caused by bad winter weather.
The council is already faced with saving £94 million by 2015 through a four-year cuts programme, and expects to have to save another £77 million between 2015 and 2019. Coun Carl Les, deputy leader and executive member for central and financial services, said: “We will try to mitigate the impact of these savings on our communities, but with 34 per cent of spending power taken out of the authority through thse cuts, we cannot deliver services as we have in the past and there has to be radical change in the way we do things.”
Speaking after today's meeting, council leader John Weighell said the face of the council was likely to change dramatically. "It will be altogether smaller - hopefully the critical services will be maintained, but enforced in a slightly different way," he said.
"I think this has been coming about for quite a few years now. People's expectations of council services will have to change and that applies across the whole country - there will be less government across the board."
The council said it expected austerity measures to last until at least the end of the decade. Its chief executive, Richard Flinton, has described the savings it has to make as "unprecedented in the life of the council" and said "year-on-year piecemeal cuts" would not be enough.