Jobs, children and elderly targeted in cuts
Workers will be axed and children, elderly and the disabled hit as budget cuts bite in Stevenage.
Jobs, children’s play schemes, and pensioners’ meals and transport are all targeted in Stevenage Borough Council proposals to save �3.5m over the next four years. The cuts to non-statutory services are being proposed to meet an anticipated 28 per cent reduction in central government funding, equating to �51 less per home in the town.
Victims of the cuts include around 45 council staff in departments across the authority who were told this week they face compulsory redundancy.
Services facing cutbacks include holiday play schemes and the council’s dial-a-ride scheme for the infirm and disabled, while subsidies for old peoples’ lunch clubs would also be fazed out.
Stevenage Museum would have its opening hours cut in half to just three days, community grants would be slashed by 25 per cent and garages that have a hard-standing in front of them will see their rates go up.
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Park maintenance and planting across the town will also be reduced.
Council tax will however remain frozen at this year’s level.
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Council leader Sharon Taylor said it is a difficult time for everyone and asked residents to understand that the cuts are being forced on the Labour-led authority.
“We are not reducing services because the demand has decreased or because their quality is not sustainable. It is purely because we no longer have funding from the government to maintain them,” she said.
“With a reduction of more than a quarter of our government grant we can’t stay the same. Things have to change but we remain committed to providing quality services that meet the needs of our residents.”
But Tory Stevenage MP, Stephen McPartland, attacked council leaders, criticising them for mismanagement and targeting the vulnerable.
“I am shocked that Stevenage Borough Council is making these cuts to frontline services,” he said. “I think local people have the right to know what the council is actually spending their council tax on - the previous chief executive was paid �170,000 to leave because he argued the Labour group were not budgeting correctly. The council’s behaviour is disgusting and an attack on vulnerable members of our community to make petty political points.”
Residents are invited to have their say on the proposals and make money-saving suggestions.
An online forum has been set up at www.stevenage.gov.uk, and comments can also be left on the council’s Facebook and Twitter pages. A roadshow will be set up in Town Square on Saturday December 11 from 10am to 1pm when residents can speak to councillors and officers about the issues.
The budget will be finalised in February.
Losers at a glance:
45 council worker jobs to go
Subsidised pest control scrapped
Stevenage Museum hours cut in half
Children’s play services reduced to Bandley Hill, Pin Green and St Nicholas.
Holiday play schemes in parks scrapped
Lunch clubs in housing schemes and community associations lose subsidy
Council dial-a-ride bus scrapped (pick up and drop off service maintained)
Community development and older people’s service teams funding cut
Shephall Leisure Centre funding scrapped
Planning budget cut to statutory minimum
Community grants cut by 25 per cent
Town Centre Management Company funding cut
Garages fees with hard stand parking rise 50p a week
Civic events cut back
Park maintenance and planting scaled back