Council bosses laid out their plans for making another £8.7million of savings over the next 12 months, in an exclusive interview with the Times & Citizen this week.
Councillor Michael Headley, finance portfolio holder at Borough Hall, predicted that less than 20 people would face compulsory redundancy as part of the cut-backs, and he said that the emphasis would continue to be put on backroom cuts and efficiencies.
Last year the authority agreed plans to save £23million over a four-year period, which resulted in 43 voluntary redundancies, 24 compulsory redundancies and 15 people being redeployed.
Mr Headley said the council aimed to be as transparent as possible - but admitted that the council was still at the mercy of the national and international economies.
He said: “It was always the case that we put the emphasis on planning the cuts last year, but it was also always going to be case that there would be further cuts this year. What we did was accept that we would take one year at a time, but still give ourselves a good headstart for the future.
“If you look at the financial situation nationally, things aren’t improving. We’re aiming to plan ahead, according to our best estimates. If the economy continues to deteriorate - and that’s something we won’t know until December - then the challenge becomes that bit greater.”
One proposed cut would see the council’s Climate Change Fund being halved, from £100,000 to £50,000 a year from 2013.
This money is used for projects such as installing solar panels on village halls and schools.
Mr Headley said: “This fund was originally set up by the Mayor, and there have been a number of projects we’ve been very pleased with.
“But there are new grant deals being brought in by the government that will promote energy saving measures. We believe we can shift some of the emphasis to that.
“A lot of schools have benefitted from the current fund, and others will continue to do so. And before Dave Hodgson was elected as Mayor there was no money available.”
One of the most controversial cuts last year was the closure of several council-run public toilets.
But Mr Headley said there were no plans to close any more toilets, and that public libraries, children’s centres and weekly bin collections were also safe.
He said: “Some councils have shut all their toilets. We are committed to maintaining our town centre toilets.
“We could have closed them, and there’s no law stopping us, but this is the sort of frontline service that we want to protect.”
Council bosses have now put the cuts programme out to consultation, and members of the public have until November 19 to give their thoughts on the proposals.
To have your say visit www.bedford.gov.uk/budget2013 or call 01234 228435.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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