Time for everyone to ‘pull together’ in Flintshire

Reporter:

Matt Jones

COMMUNITY leaders have been told to “pull together” ahead of a crucial vote on Flintshire Council’s budget.

But council bosses have said better news is to come as the council looks to make £10.5m of cuts – the biggest in the authority’s history.

The call was made by Cllr Brain Dunn, chair of the corporate resources scrutiny committee, after discussions over the 2011/12 budget which is to be put before the full council for approval in March.

He said: “The officers have done an excellent job in difficult times. Despite concerns which have been raised, let’s pull together and get this bad year out of the way.”

Cuts will include closing five libraries, a reduction in schools’ delegated budgets and charges of £40 a term for extra curricular music lessons as well as a three per cent rise in council tax and a reduction in staff at leisure centres and eligibility for free transport.

The council has been hit by a reduced settlement from the Welsh Assembly Government, the impact of inflation and increased pressure on services.

Flintshire Council’s chief executive Colin Everett said he expects the council will get improved funding from the WAG over the next two years.

He said: “We have always said this is the hardest budget to set in a period of financial austerity. The work that Flintshire is doing in terms of efficiencies it did not do in the past. It is about investing in the culture and the people, not just taking money from the budget.

“The way we are doing things is really positive.”

Mr Everett said he would support a modest rise in 2012/13 for council pay after he revealed no discussion had taken part on a national level for an increase in April.

He said: “I do not believe there will be a rise this year. By 2012 we would be working with other councils to put an end to pay freezes, especially for those on lower incomes. By that time pay would have been outstripped by inflation in a very real way. It would have been two or three years of pay freezes at that time.”

Cllr Arnold Woolley, leader of Flintshire Council said the council had not “hacked” away at staff or front line services.

“The budget fits with the aspirations of the authority and the residents of the county. It is something that will see us through to better times ahead.”

See full story in the Leader

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