Council tax set to rise after members agree cuts budget

Cuts verdict: Councillors Ken Hudson, Peter Rankin and Martyn Rawlinson
Cuts verdict: Councillors Ken Hudson, Peter Rankin and Martyn Rawlinson
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Council tax will rise by almost two per cent after Preston Council’s budget was agreed last night.

Cuts will impact on almost every service across the city as the authority attempts to save more than £3.6m over the next three financial years.

Despite alternative recommendations from Preston’s Conservative and Liberal Democrats groups, councillors voted to accept the budget by a majority vote of 28 to 22.

The Town Hall meeting was rescheduled until later in the day to accommodate the funeral of Sir Tom Finney, and a minute’s silence followed tributes from party leaders.

Coun Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources, said services had been “cut to the bone”.

He said: “We are not really budgeting any more - it’s more like survival now.

“In 2009 to 2010, this council’s income was just under £30m. By the end of this parliament it will be just under £23m.

“Most of that reduction is reduction in government grant.”

Areas cut will include parks, street cleaning and community support officers, and about half of the budget for the Guild Hall will be slashed next year.

Council leader Peter Rankin said: “It is a pretty hard job trying to lead this council, particularly faced with the cuts that we’ve been faced with, because Preston is yet again one of the hardest hit councils in the country for the amount that’s been cut from the government grant.”
He said the council was trying to limit the impact by cutting back-office staff and making use of new technology, and was also hoping to share more services with other authorities.

Preston’s Conservative group proposed no increase in council tax, and proposed four yearly elections and a reduction in the number of councillors.

The group rejected reductions to rural street cleaning and Conservative group leader Coun Ken Hudson said: “We are absolutely being swamped by developers, and when there is any developer action there is muck and that muck goes on the roads and on the grass verges where they are.

“So what we’ve actually proposed is that we reverse the silly idea that we don’t sweep up in the suburban areas.”

The city’s Liberal Democrats group rejected reductions to support for PCSOs, and instead proposed to end monitoring of city centre CCTV.

Among their other proposals were four yearly elections and a reduction in councillor numbers.

Group leader Coun Bill Shannon said: “We would absolutely protect the parks from cuts and our budget would protect the Harris, leisure centres, litter picking and support to PCSOs, and all of those are things that are given on the list of things the people of Preston want protecting.”

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