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Job losses, U-turn on toilet charges and children’s centre saved in Nottingham City Council budget cuts

todayFebruary 15, 2022

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Nottingham City Council has revealed which services will face the axe following a lengthy consultation over its budget.

It had planned to close six of nine children’s centres, cut 91 jobs, reduce youth and play services as well as introducing charges for bulky waste and parking permits.

Draft budget documents were released on November 8 last year, detailing the lengths the Labour-led authority would have to go to make £28m of savings.

The final proposals, which will soon be recommended for approval, have now been unveiled following the public consultation.

It commenced on November 16 and finished on February 10 this year.

Upon receiving 632 responses through the online survey, with 49 from organisations and 583 from individual citizens, the council has made a number of changes.

It has withdrawn a proposal to charge for toilets at Greyhound Street, with residents expressing concern for people with health conditions as well as those who are rough sleeping.

The plan to cut youth and play services has been altered so that more staff in the team are retained.

And it will now seek to close five children’s centres instead of six.

It will however still be introducing charges for bulky waste collections and second and third parking permits, as well as proposing a rent increase for council tenants.

A total of 83 jobs, 24 of which vacant, will be axed if councillors push the final proposals through.

Below is a breakdown of the proposals, which will go before executive councillors on February 22, before being approved at the meeting of full council in March.

Council tax

Out of 125,000 chargeable properties, 100,000, or 80%, are in Band A and B for council tax.

Adult social care and care for children takes up much of the council’s budget, and the need for such services is only ever increasing.

The council has proposed an increase in basic council tax from April 2022 of 1.99%, as well as an additional increase of 1% for the adult social care precept, to fund this sector, which accounts for 40% of the budget.

Current charges are £1,483.84 for Band A and £1,731 for Band B.

Council housing

The council is proposing a rent increase of 4.1% for the 2022/23 year.

This will come on top of a proposed increase in general service charges by 4.1% and an increase to garage rents by 3.1%.

Trouble has plagued the council’s Housing Revenue Account, which is used for the tenants and housing stock, after “unlawful” payments totalling £15m were found to have been made from this pot of cash to its general fund.

The council must also now find a way to credit this account with £15m by law.

Children’s centres and youth services

A proposal to axe staff has been reconsidered and an additional three workers will be retained.

This will ensure there are 15 youth workers, plus a manager providing city-wide outreach, in the youth and play sector.

It will however end funding for Base 51, a charity which helps 11 to 25 year olds.

Youth and play services will be affected and provision will be targeted only and based out of just one building, and community centre grants will be reduced.

That Bulwell Riverside centre would operate as “a citywide outreach hub” while The Ridge Adventure Play and Youth Centre in Top Valley would provide specialised adventure provision on a citywide basis.

Four of nine children’s centres will now be retained.

The council says: “Officers are developing a detailed proposal for a new children’s centre model based on retaining four centres under direct council operation. In addition, the Council will explore options if partnerships with schools and child care providers at other sites can be agreed.”

Parking permits

At present residents in areas covered by parking permit schemes can apply for up to two free permits, to cover two vehicles, with charges for any additional vehicles.

But if the new measures are introduced, only one free permit would be granted.

No changes to this plan are proposed.

Bulky waste

A charge of £20 will be introduced on bulky waste collections, saving the council £80,000 a year.

Residents who currently get help for council tax will be allowed two free collections per year.

Public toilets

The Greyhound Street public toilets look set to remain “a free of charge service facility”.

However the public convenience on the Victoria Embankment will be axed, saving £32,000.

Bus services

Link Bus services will be reduced, meaning fewer buses will be in operation, “leading to a maintenance saving of £100,000”.

The scholars pass upgrade to the Robin Hood Card will no longer be available for anyone other than SEN children, which would save £35,000.

There will be a withdrawal of the school bus service ‘A1’.

This would mean the service between Basford, Bulwell and Aspley schools would cease to exist.

In response to the consultation, however, the council says it has approached Trinity Academy, the main user of the service, for a “contribution per year to keep the service operating in the new school year from September 2022”.

This is being considered by the school.

There will be a Medilink fare increase, while the frequency on a number of services will be reduced, saving £340,000.

The majority of households “would continue to have access to a public transport service”, the council added.

What the council says

The city council’s financial difficulties are the result of a number of factors.

While it receives roughly £100m less per year from the Government, meaning it must find the cash elsewhere through cuts and council tax hikes, the significant losses incurred during the collapse of Robin Hood Energy are no secret.

Its losses totalled £38.1m and its collapse has left the council under the continued scrutiny of a Government-appointed Improvement and Assurances Board.

Around £18m was also lost upon the administration of intu, which had planned to regenerate the former Broadmarsh Centre.

The budget gap is expected to increase to £38.1 million in 2025/26.

Portfolio holder for finance and resources and Castle ward councillor, Sam Webster, said: “I want to thank everyone who took part in our budget consultation. We always said the proposals were not set in stone and we’ve listened carefully to what people have told us and acted on their views and suggestions.

“However, like many councils across the country, we are still facing extremely challenging circumstances due to a decade of unprecedented reductions in Government funding and the growing demand for some key council services, especially care services for older people.

“Councils of all types are facing the same challenges, not least because one of the main statutory services we provide – care for the elderly – is not being properly funded through national taxation. Instead, it is being unfairly funded by the Government’s Social Care Precept, adding an extra charge to Council Tax bills which amounts to £211 more on Band D bills over the last six years.

“The Government has talked a lot about ‘Levelling Up’ recently, but by cutting the resources that local areas have available during a time of rising demand for some key services, the effect has been the opposite of ‘Levelling Up.’”

Written by: thehitnetwork

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