Stormy clash as budget set for Preston

Preston Town Hall

Preston Town Hall

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  • Council tax set to rise by 1.99 per cent
  • City could be facing further deficit of £2.7m
  • Alternative proposals for budget rejected
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Political chiefs locked horns in Preston’s Town Hall as the city’s budget savings were decided for the coming year.

There were stormy scenes in the council chamber as the three main parties had their say on where cuts should be brought in.

This council’s government grant has gone down faster than Wayne Rooney in the North End penalty area.

But the Labour cabinet’s proposals, including a council tax rise of 1.99 per cent, were finally agreed by a majority vote.

Coun Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources, told the meeting: “This council’s government grant has gone down faster than Wayne Rooney in the Preston North End penalty area.

“In 2011, our government grant was £19.5m, by 2018, it is forecast to be £1.5m. We have lost the ability to cope with staff pay rises, inflation and pension reviews.

“This has left this council on the edge of a precipice.”

He said the council had “worked miracles” with the services offered and new policies and projects, but could be facing a deficit of £2.7m at the end of the financial forecast from 2018.

He said: “We can’t get away from the fact that if the deficit materialises, there is no getting around major service cuts.

“The services that we don’t have to provide by law cost around £4m a year, so you can imagine what a £2.7m budget hole would do to them.

“It’s absolutely unthinkable, but we may be in a position where we are considering closing parks.”

Conservative Coun Damien Moore proposed amendments to the planned savings, including four yearly elections and reducing the number of councillors from 54 to 40. He also proposed opening the Harris Museum on Sundays.

Preston’s Liberal Democrats group proposed free car parking in the city from 3pm, as well as the reintroduction of out-of-hour dog fowling enforcement.

Coun John Potter criticised the ruling group who he said hadn’t “taken action” to plan for the predicted deficit and said: “There’s no miracle coming before the council goes bust in a couple of years.

“We have asked the officers to look into the Harris Museum and West View, they are wonderful assets but they are not safe in the hands of politicians in this city.”