Museums face axe as council tax to rise 4 per cent

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Council tax could increase by four per cent this year and museums may face the axe under Kirklees Council’s budget plans.

The council has been planning new ways to deliver services in the face of unprecedented cuts to its budget that will mean 40 per cent of its funds will have been lost between 2010-2020.

Dewsbury Museum, Crow Nest Park. (d23081122)

Dewsbury Museum, Crow Nest Park. (d23081122)

Almost 1,400 jobs have been cut during the past five years and a further 1,000 are likely to go.

Leader of Kirklees Council David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) said the government was giving with one hand and taking away with the other and a massive rethink was needed to keep services afloat.

He said: “As far as the North of England is concerned most councils have seen more and more cuts.

“Basically what we’re saying is we know the budget we’ve got in rolling forward from last year.

Oakwell Hall. (D534C436)

Oakwell Hall. (D534C436)

“There are no big surprises, the cuts were slightly more than we anticipated, we had predicted them to some degree but they became even more.

“Our response is we couldn’t just salami slice services and take a bit off here and there, and continue doing what we are doing. The only way to meet the needs of the people we have to serve is to change the way the council does everything.

“That means we can’t say to any service ‘you can just carry on as you have been’.

“Our job now is not to do things for people but to help people to do things for themselves and for each other. If we can’t do that then the council will go bankrupt.

“We have started to cut the libraries and it might not be the last time they are cut.”

The cuts could affect Oakwell Hall, Red House Museum and Dewsbury Museum, and it is possible that plans will be put in place to charge for the disposal of bulkier items of rubbish.

A council tax increase of four per cent would mean about £1 a week more for a Band D property.

This year the government has allowed local authorities to increase council tax by an extra two per cent to pay for adult social care, which would normally require a referendum.

Coun Sheard said this money would go directly towards paying the living wage to carers but would not be sufficient to cover the entire cost.

He said: “A lot of the Chancellor’s changes are smoke and mirrors. He makes an announcement and we figure out what it will cost us.

“We know the government wants to reduce local authorities. They have a political mandate to do that and they are doing it.

“The Chancellor has found it easier to make us cut than cut himself. Central government are extremely bad at cutting their spending so they pass it on to councils.”

Social care is the biggest cost to Kirklees and is likely to increase with an ageing population as well as the rise in cases of dementia.

The council will also look at charging for services that it does not have a statutory responsibility to provide and are judged to not be essential.

Coun Sheard said growing the economy and building more homes would not only create jobs but produce revenue in terms of council tax payments.

The amount of grant paid by central government to councils has reduced significantly during recent years and will continue to decrease in the run-up to 2020.

Some of the council’s reserves will be spent during the period but Coun Sheard stressed they would not be enough to plug all the gaps and can only be used once.

He said: “We have to have reserves in case there is, for example, a flood. If there is an emergency and we have no reserves we won’t be able to do anything about it.

“We realise we have to spend what we have rather than what we wish to have. The real success would be to change people’s attitudes.

He said people cannot to expect the same service form the council anymore.

“The £80m cuts we have made so far most people haven’t noticed. The people who have are the staff who have had to do more and more work and then get complained about by the public.”

Kirklees Cabinet will meet on February 2 and full council on February 17 to consider 
the budget.