CUTS: The savings start now as councillors agree to budget cuts plan
"WE are on our way."
That was the pledge made by council leaders as they agreed a budget cuts plan last night of about £9 million – the first step in the four-year plan to save £30 million.
It is the biggest round of cuts North East Lincolnshire Council has had to make in its 15-year history.
And the council has taken the biggest hit in Government spending reduction of all the unitary authorities in England – with £15 million less in its central government grant.
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But councillors agreed council tax would be frozen for another year so an average Band A property household will pay about £993 and a Band D home tax will be £1,246.
The cutbacks agreed at the meeting at Grimsby Town Hall will affect all levels of council spending.
As reported, the five executive directors could be cut to three by 2014 and some council staff may face changes to their contracts that will cut their salaries by almost a fifth.
A total of 200 council posts will be cut, though most of them are short-term contracts due to expire this year.
Compulsory job losses are due to be limited to about 15.
Services will also bear the brunt of the cutbacks:
Libraries will close on Sundays, although access to Cleethorpes Tourist Information Centre in Cleethorpes Library will be maintained.
Children's Centre opening hours will be cut back.
Parks and gardens will be tended less and grass cut every eight weeks, instead of five.
The tourism budget will be cut by £292,000, including £200,000 through taking Meridian Park back into local authority control.
Council leader Councillor Andrew De Freitas said the budget protected the vulnerable in our society and ensured an efficient council, providing effective frontline services.
He said: "We are on our way to meeting the long-term plan.
"It is tough, but North East Lincolnshire is in a better position than most other authorities because of the changes we have made in previous years – transferring council housing stock six years ago, creating the Care Trust Plus three years ago and last year agreeing the partnership with Balfour Beatty. We have done much more than most authorities."
Opposition Conservative group leader Councillor Keith Brookes said: "This council is reducing street cleaning, reducing street bin emptying, reducing the number of flower beds, reducing grass cutting and will reduce the success had with Cleethorpes In Bloom, and Grimsby and Immingham In Bloom."
His group's amendments to retain cleansing teams and maintain bowling greens and plough £200,000 back into tourism were defeated by 27 votes to 15.
Labour group leader Councillor Chris Shaw's amendment to have a review to combine community pride enforcement teams with street cleaning teams to save £375,000 in the first year was approved.
Mr Shaw said: "I look forward to future years, when we can combine more services to save more money."
A full analysis will appear in tomorrow's Grimsby Telegraph.