Council announces tough financial shake-up
PUBLISHED: 17:39 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 09:16 02 June 2010
CONSERVATIVE controlled Fenland District Council tore up its financial rule book as it pledged to peg Council Tax to inflation, freeze recruitment and look for £2 million of savings. Councillor Alan Melton, portfolio holder for finance,
CONSERVATIVE controlled Fenland District Council tore up its financial rule book as it pledged to peg Council Tax to inflation, freeze recruitment and look for £2 million of savings.
Councillor Alan Melton, portfolio holder for finance, used phrases not heard for years at Fenland Hall today as he described the council's £18 million wage bill as unsustainable.
He also ditched the council's previously agreed proposals for annual rises of 3.9 per cent in Council Tax for three years as "unrealistic, politically unacceptable and unsustainable. Council Tax increases will be pegged nearer to the prevailing rate of inflation at budget setting time."
He added: "My only pledge is to preserve front line services and the first class service our customers will enjoy."
Cllr Melton highlighted many aspects of council services where costs had risen, using the example of leisure centres which now cost twice what they did four years ago.
He had listed 27 areas of expenditure ranging from sport, leisure, marketing, CCTV, IT, and community projects where the total spend was £14.7 million and suggested "there has to be some fat in there!"
Cllr Melton said: "No programme is sacred; officers are currently examining these items."
He said the Cabinet had also asked the corporate management team to revisit the capital programme with immediate affect and to reexamine any uncommitted schemes.
"Any scheme where a contract has not been signed will be reviewed, and any existing commitments will be subjected to a value to the community added test," he said.
"Our main priority must be to take measures to stimulate the economy and encourage job stimulation and opportunities within the district. The health warning is quite simple- no spending for the sake of it."
Fenland was not immune to the national meltdown and the credit crunch and although the council was better placed than most for this year, what concerned him is the next financial year and the impact on budgets in the medium term.
Cllr Melton promised there would be no "slash and burn" attitude over staff who remained the council's number one asset.
"However staff costs will need to be examined and efficiencies sought in the deployment of staff," he said. "Staff expenditure is approaching £18 million. This is unsustainable; we can achieve savings by a mixture of redeployment, natural wastage, recruitment freeze and keeping any wage settlements to a low and sustainable level, and that may include some wages being frozen.
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