Pendle Council announces first plans to save £5,000,000

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a RANGE of measures to help Pendle Council save £1.75m. in 2012/13 has been approved by councillors - the first stage of a cost-cutting programme to help the council meet a target of cuts totalling £5.1m. in the next three years.

Members of the council’s Executive warned of tough times ahead - and even Chief Executive Stephen Barnes said he was “frightened” by what the future might hold.

A report which updated the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan for 2012/15 and outlined how the savings could be made was approved by the council’s Executive.

Council leader Mike Blomeley said the report addressed the big challenges faced by the council in the years ahead and Coun. Linda Crossley, who oversees the council’s resources, stressed: “Funding for local government is reducing and presents us with a significant challenge. That’s why we’re starting early to deal with the problem.

“We know we’re receiving £1.638m, or 14%, less funding in 2012/13 when compared to the current year, so we need to make some decisions on how to make sure our budget remains in balance.

“It is going to be very difficult, particularly for the next few years, but of course we will endeavour to ensure key frontline services will be maintained wherever possible.”

The report proposed the use of almost £5m. of reserves in the period to 2015 - but said this still leaves a significant deficit on the council’s budget.

Some of the cash saving options councillors will be considering in the coming months include:

• Adopting a cash limited budget.

• Reviewing employee terms and conditions.

• Increasing council tax - frozen for the last two years - by 2.5%.

• Again reviewing the council’s organisational structure.

• Continuing to explore shared working.

• Cutting lower priority and non-frontline services.

• Selling capital assets.

Mr Barnes said: “The scale of change in government grant funding, combined with low council tax increases, will have a significant impact on the affordability of the services we currently provide.

“We know what is going to happen next year.

“It is what happens the year after that frightens me.

“If a lot of things go wrong, it will so transform the council that we will not recognise it.”

The report appproved by members showed that according to current figures, the council will have to make further savings of £2.47 million in 2013/14 and £904,000 in 2014/15.