Proposals for alternative budget ahead of meeting

Cash plan:  Couns Bill Shannon, Martyn Rawlinson and Eric Fazackerley will lock horns over Preston Council's budget proposals
Cash plan: Couns Bill Shannon, Martyn Rawlinson and Eric Fazackerley will lock horns over Preston Council's budget proposals
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Alternative proposals were being finalised ahead of a meeting to decide Preston Council’s budget.

Elected members are due to meet next week to agree how to balance the books, as the authority attempts to slash more than £3.6m over the next three financial years.

A review of subsidies, a reduction in the number of councillors and cuts to CCTV monitoring are among the suggestions offered by the city’s Conservative and Liberal Democrats groups.

The meeting next Thursday has been rescheduled to accommodate the funeral of Sir Tom Finney, which elected members described as a “priority”. It will now be held at 4pm in the Town Hall, and councillors will vote on proposals.

Preston Conservative group finance spokesman Coun Eric Fazackerley said detailed proposals were being worked on, although hadn’t all been finalised. He said: “We are working hard on the detail to see what we can do to ease the financial pressures on the organisation.”

Coun Fazackerley said one area he was looking at “in great detail” was subsidies.

He said: “There are circumstances in which subsidies must be given, to give to people who need help. But I believe that, taking it without looking at the detail, we get the anomalies of those people who can afford to pay taking advantage of the subsidy that could be going to somebody else.”

Proposals from the Liberal Democrats group include trying to make more of the £3.6m savings in the first year.

Group leader Coun Bill Shannon said the group would like to see Preston become part of a unitary authority, and said: “The only sensible thing is for us to merge all those back offices in order to save the front line services.”

He also said they would suggest bringing in four-yearly councils instead of elections every year, and would reduce the number of councillors, initially to 40. Coun Shannon said: “We would cut out monitoring CCTV in the city centre, and that would save about £100,000 in the current year. But we would spend £60,000 of that on continuing the support for PCSOs.” He said the group would propose to bring the price of cremations and burials in line with each other, and would not cut the inner city litter picking team or substantially reduce support for parks. He added that they would also introduce an off-street parking subsidy of up to £50,000, to encourage shoppers into the city.

Cabinet member for resources, Coun Martyn Rawlinson, said he thought cutting the number of councillors would be “damaging” to democracy, and said stopping CCTV monitoring “would really damage the police work and put people at risk”. He also said he would resist not being a two-tier authority.

He said the £3.6m cut would affect almost every service and said: “You could cut this budget a thousand different ways and everyone would come up with a different scenario. So if they want to suggest we don’t cut one or two things and cut something else, they can do that but in the grand scheme of things it’s not going to change that much.”