£7.4m cuts are agreed

breaking news
breaking news

COUNCILLORS agreed budget cuts totalling £7million for the next financial year at a meeting on Thursday night.

Hartlepool Borough Council leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher said the authority had faced “difficult decisions” to cope with a grant cut from central Government for a fifth successive year.

Proposals for savings totalling £7.4million were agreed at a meeting of the full council.

They include controversial moves to axe the £110,000 Community Pool, which has previously been used to support voluntary and community sector organisations across the town.

They have included financial support to Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA), plus Hartlepool’s foodbank and credit unions.

In future, such groups will be encouraged to apply directly to councillors for a share of their ward member budgets.

Councillors voted against a motion by independent councillor Paul Thompson to scrap the ward budgets and use the £90,000 towards keeping the Community Pool.

Coun Akers-Belcher added £110,000 for Advice and Guidance services will be used to support vulnerable people.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “The message is we invite voluntary and community sector organisations to make representations directly with elected members for requests out of their member budgets.”

Coun Thompson told the meeting: “The Community Pool has propped up the foodbank and credit union which a massive number of families rely on.”

He said the member budgets, while nice to have, “are not services that are going to help people right at the point of crisis”.

Of the £7.4m cuts, £5.4m will be come from council departments.

Coun Akers-Belcher said services used by the elderly and vulnerable residents have been protected as much as possible.

The remainder will come from £1.1m in the council’s Budget Reserve Fund and £620,000 in corporate savings.

The budget includes freezing council tax levels for the fifth successive year and keeping the Council Tax Support Scheme cut down to 12 per cent.

A total of 52 council staff jobs will be axed with 35 coming from removing empty posts, voluntary redundancies and early retirement.

But 17 posts are still at risk of compulsory redundancy before April.

Coun Akers-Belcher branded the Government cuts unfair saying poorer places in the north have seen the biggest cuts compared to richer areas in the south.

“I think the Prime Minister is the only one who still believes we are all in this together,” he said.