Council bosses say ‘we are not panicking’

Don't panic: Preston Council leader Coun Peter Rankin
Don't panic: Preston Council leader Coun Peter Rankin
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Council bosses in Preston said they would not ‘dwell on the doom and gloom’ as they put forward plans to save £1m over the next year.

At a meeting of Preston Council’s cabinet last night, leaders admitted they had their ‘backs against the wall’ with savings plans, including a two per cent council tax rise, but would push ahead with projects including plans to create renewable energy and promoting Preston’s markets.

Meanwhile, bosses at South Ribble Council said they were ‘optimistic’ about their authority’s financial future.

In Preston, Coun Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources, said they had to draw up their budget twice after receiving their grant settlement from central government - one of the toughest in the country.

He said: “There wasn’t much question of freezing council tax, especially after the settlement. But I don’t think we should apologise for a relatively small increase, especially when it means protecting jobs and services. There is still an awful lot going on, considering we have lost a third of our income in the last few years.”

Around £245,000 in savings will be made by a restructure of back office service and four-and-a-half jobs are expected to be lost.

Further savings of £78,000, will be made by changes in some of the insurance policies for council-owned buildings including the Harris Museum, Preston Bus Station and Lancastria House.

The meeting also heard they will be £40,000 better off after an increase in the final settlement agreed with central Government.

Budget proposals will go before the authority’s full council for a final sign-off this month.

Council leader Peter Rankin said: “We do recognise that we are in an age of austerity.

“Despite that I believe we are achieving and will continue to achieve our priorities in Preston. We are not panicking.”

South Ribble Council has vowed to invest in community safety and make park improvements over the next 12 months, whilst also freezing council tax for residents.