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D-Day on Flintshire Council budget aiming to save £12m

Published date: 18 February 2014 |
Published by: Jamie Nield-Siddall 
Read more articles by Jamie Nield-Siddall  Email reporter


 

A DECISION will be made today on a controversial financial plan which has divided opinion in County Hall.

Flintshire Council’s draft budget for the 2014-2015 financial year, which could see more than 80 jobs axed, is to be discussed at a crunch meeting.

Council bosses, who are facing unprecedented savings targets of £12 million for the 12 months from April, are also proposing to axe at least eight of its top 18 managerial posts.

Authority leaders are looking to make cuts internally to protect frontline services.

The plan, which is to be scrutinised by the cabinet and the full council today, is expected to be approved.

Flintshire Council is aiming to cut £1.5 million from its workforce budget and it previously said “work was under way” to identify where a shrinking of the 7,500-strong council workforce could take place.

Council leader Cllr Aaron Shotton said he thought about 80 job losses were required, but insisted the council wanted the reduction to come through early retirement and voluntary redundancies.

The number of directors and heads of service at the authority is set to be cut “from 18 to a maximum of 10”, cabinet member Cllr Billy Mullin has said, in an effort to trim £2 million in a review of senior management roles.

Reductions in operating costs, overheads and reorganisation of council structure are just some of the other ways the unitary body is proposing to reduce costs.

A three per cent council tax increase is also proposed in the budget.

Cllr Shotton, who will present the draft budget to councillors today, said despite the council facing “an unprecedented financial challenge”, it has managed to balance the budget and defend the services that “Flintshire residents depend upon”.

He added: “The protection of local services has been a priority and we have managed to make savings internally within the council, while keeping our commitments to residents.”

On the eve of the cabinet and full council meetings Cllr Mike Peers, leader of the Independent Alliance, has made calls for opposition councillors to have an “earlier involvement” in next year’s budget plans.

He said: “We are all elected members with the county council and we are all expected to go with the budget.

“It would make for a better budget.”

While former Flintshire Council leader Cllr Arnold Woolley – who sparked a major row when he likened members scrutinising budget cuts to “a few sets of nodding donkeys” – said he has “massive concerns” about the cuts contained in the budget draft.

He said: “We have to have a budget, the budget has to be balanced and these two things have been achieved.

“It is what is in and behind that which i want to know more about.

“My concern is due to the lack of in-depth scrutiny.

“We have no assurance of the methodology they are going to use to achieve these admirable ends.”

Cllr Peers praised the council for maintaining frontline services, but criticised some of the planned efficiencies.

He added adding: “In my view they are not efficiencies, they are charges to services.”

“We knew these sorts of cuts were coming down the line. All council members will have to look at the efficiencies from here on in.

“We need to look at the number of senior positions on the council.

“We have got to make use of the skills these people have but we have got to maintain frontline services.

“Something has got to give.”

Reacting to the comments made by Cllrs Peers and Woolley, Cllr Shotton said: “I appreciate and welcome Cllr Peers’ praise for the budget strategy and fully recognise the need for all members to unite in future budget challenges.

“I am disappointed however that Cllr Woolley doesn’t share his Independent Group Leader (Mike Peers’) views and chooses instead to criticise those members of the council who have dutifully scrutinised the cabinet’s budget proposals. “

He added: “I am proud to lead a cabinet that has set out to exhaust all options available to defend the public services that local residents rely on. This year, in defence of public services, we are proposing to balance the council budget by making significant internal savings and I hope that at today’s full council budget meeting, the wider council membership can support the considerable efforts made.”

Flintshire Council’s capital programme which outlines spending for capital building works, is also on today’s agenda.

More than £100m will be made available over the next four years to support key facilities and infrastructure including schools, highways, civic buildings and the series of Flintshire Connects customer contact centres across the county.

Once discussed at cabinet, the council’s revenue fund and capital programme will be presented at the full council meeting this afternoon for debate and a final vote.

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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