22nd Feb, 2020

Less for more as cutbacks begin to bite to beat Redditch's money woes

Ross Crawford 14th Feb, 2020

A MASSIVE round of cuts, cash savings and reductions has been given the green light by the Borough Council’s executive committee as the authority looks to deal with a looming £1.17million hole in its balance sheet.

As well as the highly publicised closure of the One-stop shops, saving £60,000, withdrawal from the Rubicon Centre, saving £92,000, and voluntary service funding cuts, saving £108,000, the committee heard of cash savings within the council itself and cash generating initiatives as it looks to become more commercially orientated.

Redditch residents will have to pay more too, with council tax going up by £5 for a band D property, although the full council tax amount won’t be known until both the County Council and the Police set their rates.

Redditch’s financial crisis was sparked last year when external auditors Grant Thornton, alarmed at the authority’s spending and failure to secure enough income to cover it, issued the council with a Section 24 notice warning it was in danger of running out of money.

Head of finance Jayne Pickering also warned councillors Redditch could be facing a further £1.6million shortfall over the next three years given the high level of uncertainty over central government funding for local authorities.

Nearly half the money required to balance the books for the coming financial year will come from savings within the authority and additional income generated.

This will include £90,000 in savings from a change in the popular Dial A Ride service; the number of minibuses will be reduced from five to six with the focus switching to group activities so the vehicles are as full as possible.

One off journeys for medical appointments will be covered by a community volunteer car scheme.

“The message here is steady as she goes,” said Councillor David Thain (Con, West) whose portfolio covers finance.

“We have made difficult decisions and we have still got to make more but we have had reassurance from Grant Thornton that we are on the right track.”

Leader of the Labour group Coun Bill Hartnett (Church Hill), said: “It’s not just Redditch; all local government is at breaking point – we are not delivery services we are reducing services and we did not get elected to cut services.”

His colleague Coun Greg Chance (Lab, Central) added: “It’s a cold and chilly night in February and there’s not much in this report to warm the cockles of your heart.

“I am disappointed in where we are. I was looking forward to all our problems being solved after the General Election.”

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