September 27th, 2016

Councils step into cash breach for most in need

Councils step into cash breach for most in need Councils step into cash breach for most in need
Updated: 10:03 am, May 07, 2015

A SUPPORT fund for those most in need is being created by council chiefs after the Government axed cash for those in crisis.

Redditch Borough Council will provide £30,000 of its own money to continue offering advice and support to those faced with homelessness or struggling to pay for food and household essentials.

Worcestershire County Council has also agreed to match the borough’s contribution for one year only.

The money replaces the £940,000 the county council used to receive and then give to district councils, but has been withdrawn by the Government. Redditch Borough Council’s share was £203,000 and between April 2013 and last September it received 3,886 applications with £166,882 worth of support offered.

Although the new fund will not replace all the money lost, it will allow help to continue to be provided to the most vulnerable.

The council also plans to spend £70,000 on ensuring all staff are earning the living wage of £7.85 an hour and £20,000 will be made available to support small businesses. Another £41,000 will be spent on a study reducing the council’s annual energy bill of between £750,000 and £800,000.

The schemes were revealed as part of a three year financial plan at an executive committee on Tuesday (February 3).

Between 2015/16 and 2017/18 the council will have to make £4million worth of savings which will come mainly from cutting the cost of running the authority and through measures such as a freeze on recruitment.

The sale of some of the 100 buildings, pieces of land and assets the council owns will be used to pay down borrowing costs of over £1million a year during the period, while it is estimated £300,000 could be saved from handing the Abbey Stadium and other assets, such as the Palace Theatre, over to a leisure trust if councillors approve.

The borough council’s share of the council tax will also rise by 1.9 per cent. The Government has offered a grant to freeze bills this year, but it will only be a one-off payment which would leave the council having to find another £150,000 of savings the following year.

Council leader Bill Hartnett said: “We have delivered a balanced budget. Despite the climate of austerity and cutbacks we live in we have maintained our services and even provided new services.”

But Conservative group leader Coun Juliet Brunner said they had enough money from the New Homes Bonus and business rates to freeze bills while she accused them of ‘flogging off the family silver’ to make the books balance.