Town’s Christmas fair faces the axe under council cutbacks

Stallholders at the annual Bedford Victorian Christmas Fair.
Stallholders at the annual Bedford Victorian Christmas Fair.
  • Public are being asked for their views on proposed cutbacks
  • Frontline services are facing the chop as the council attempts to save £25.6m by 2020
  • Public toilets could close, summer playschemes scrapped and road safety initiatives shelved

The popular town centre Christmas Fair is facing the axe under proposed cutbacks as the council strives to balance its books.

The full extent of proposed money-saving measures have been laid bare as a further £25.6million needs to be shaved off Bedford Borough Council’s budget by 2020.

Among the proposals, which the public are being asked for their views on, are plans to reduce the council’s events programme, including scrapping the Christmas fair from 2016, which will save £10,000.

Mayor of Bedford Borough Dave Hodgson said: “Despite the Council having had to cut spending by £81million since 2010 the government is planning huge additional cuts which will reduce the council’s ability to support its residents. The forecast is that the latest pressures and the government cuts mean we need to find a further £25million of savings over the next four years.”

Four public toilets at The Broadway, St Peter’s, Melbourne Street and Russell Park are facing closure, saving £38,000 each year.

Work to reduce speed limits and installing average speed cameras will stop and road safety initiatives will be shelved saving a total of £35,000.

The council is also proposing to cut one of the borough’s two dog warden and pest control officer posts, saving £15,000.

An annual £10,000 contribution towards the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership will be stopped and dog waste collection bins will be scrapped. Instead there will be dual litter and dog waste bins cutting £30,000 from the budget.

Mr Hodgson said: “We’re continuing to make savings in Borough Hall, not out in the community. This has included cutting back office costs, reducing staffing and changing the way we buy things. This approach has helped us to protect frontline services. But once these savings have been made there comes a point when tougher decisions have to be made. That’s why we are launching this consultation so residents can have their say on how best they wish us to meet this unprecedented challenge.”

To make money, the council is proposing charging traders for the disposal of commercial waste at household waste recycling centres.

School transport provision is set to be reviewed, including the provision of taxis.

And the council’s 16 summer play schemes, which are attended by around 5,000 children, are facing the chop to save £64,000.

Planting around the borough will be looked at with plans for more perennial plants and bushes to save £20,000, although the pretty Embankment area will be excluded from this.

Open hours at the customer service centre are set to be cut with the office being closed on Saturdays and customers encouraged to access services via the internet.

Councillor Michael Headley, who oversees finance, said: “The government needs to realise that this approach will have an impact on lives of people in Bedford Borough. With further cuts predicted each year going forward it’s forcing a new basis on which local councils can operate and the services we are able to provide. I urge residents to take part in the consultation so Bedford Borough Council can take everyone’s view into account when planning for the future.”

To give your views on the consultation visit www.bedford.gov.uk/budget2016.