Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Council budget's big investment

Redcar and Cleveland Council is ready to invest £6million on more and better services for the elderly, children and the environment - and keep its Council Tax rise down to a cost of living increase.

The Council's Cabinet also believes its 2007/2008 budget will deliver a seven per cent productivity improvement, as well as being able to limit the Council Tax rise to 51p a week for Band A properties, which accounts for over a third of the Borough's 61,000 properties.

Nearly £2million is earmarked to invest in care for elderly people and those with learning disabilities as well as ensuring improvements to residential care and more help for people to live at home.

This investment is geared to address national fears from the Commission for Social Care, who believe families face a growing financial burden to pay for their own support services.

There is also a commitment to invest just under £1million in improving transporting children to school and ensuring 'vulnerable' children get more support.

The budget proposals, which are going out to widespread consultation over the next month, also plan to build on the Council's status as a Beacon Council for its recycling and waste management services. This could see an extra Clean and Green operative in each of the six zoned areas of the Borough.

The Council's Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources Councillor Glyn Nightingale said: "The Council's primary objectives are to maintain existing services and respond effectively to the need for improved services.

"We can spend an extra £6 million for a cost of living increase of 3.6 per cent, the figure used by the Chancellor for pensions increase and achieve productivity improvements worthy of any world-class business."

Consultation on the £105 million budget, which will involve hundreds of people, with meetings planned for both public and staff before it is formally agreed by the Council on March 1, will offer three further options.

Councillor Nightingale explained: "We want the views of local people on whether we should employ more Clean and Green workers. This would mean a Council Tax rise of 3.9 per cent instead of 3.6 per cent.

"If Council Tax was to rise by 4.9 per cent - the maximum allowed by Government, an extra £625,000 could be spent on further improvements in Council services. If we did that, what should we spend it on?

"However, if people wanted us to set the Council Tax at less than 3.6 per cent, we would need to make serious cuts in services with job losses. We need the public to tell us what those reductions should be."

Each of the Council's main directorates - Chief Executives, Finance and Procurement, Area Management, Health and Social Well Being and Children's Services - have also already made considerable efforts to find new ways of delivering services with greater efficiency.

"The result is savings amounting to £7 million achieved in some cases through investment in automation, ending duplication of work, less office space and new work practices."

Councillor Nightingale said: "Our overall package will see an increase in jobs in the private as well as the public sector. There will be a reduction in administration and managerial jobs but a bigger increase in jobs directly serving the public.

"The exact numbers of job losses and job gains have not yet been determined because we are going through a voluntary process. There are no compulsory redundancies planned."

Copies of the proposals, which are being circulated to all councillors, the Borough's town and parish councils, businesses, trade unions and the voluntary sector, can be access through the Council's website,

Details of public meetings and other consultation events will shortly be advertised.

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