Savings set to go to new wards

Marjorie James
Marjorie James

MONEY saved from a day of industrial action could be used to create budgets for new wards in Hartlepool.

This financial year Hartlepool Borough Council is expected to make a one-off saving of £50,000 from the day of public sector strikes in November, which affected services across town.

Councillors have recommended using that money plus the £76,848 saving from the acting chief executive arrangements and £21,402 from the joint head of HR role to create new budgets for wards.

Council-run buildings, schools, colleges, and the University Hospital of Hartlepool became scenes of industrial action as public sector workers took action on November 30 over changes to their pensions.

Labour councillor Marjorie James, who chairs the council’s scrutiny co-ordinating committee, suggested using the money – which totals £148,250 – for new ward budgets.

In May there will be an all-out election which will see the number of councillors slashed from 47 to 33 serving 11 wards instead of 17, with three members in each ward.

Coun James said dividing the savings would create a £13,000 budget for each ward but said it could be even higher – as much as £21,000 – if there is a positive outturn in the council’s budget at the end of the financial year.

Coun James, speaking at a recent scrutiny meeting, said there had been a recent debate about what happens when the minor works budget is axed at the end of March.

The minor works budget is used for road safety improvements, programmes to alleviate parking problems and anti-social behaviour problems.

Scrutiny’s recommendations will go back to the cabinet as part of the ongoing budget process.

Coun James added: “That is a one-off arrangement for next year which gives us a basic budget.

“£13,000 per ward would be a good use of the money and it is revenue so can be used for any purpose.

“It may be a small amount of money but it can make a big difference.”

Last week the Mail reported Mayor Stuart Drummond was at odds with his cabinet over plans to create individual budgets for councillors after the all-out election.

The proposal was to split the current minor works budget into individual budgets and Mayor Drummond said he has always believed councillors should have individual pots of cash for their own wards.

But other cabinet members argued that the proposal at cabinet of £5,000 per ward is an “incredibly small” amount of money.

Instead they argued there should be a larger pot of cash that members can make bids to.

Last summer, director of child and adult services Nicola Bailey took over the reins as acting chief executive and head of paid service after replacing Paul Walker.

The temporary arrangement will this year save the council £76,848.

Meanwhile, the council will also save £21,402 this year after it was agreed to create a new joint assistant director role for human resources between Hartlepool and Darlington Borough Council.

It sees both councils share the cost and services.