Kirklees Council reveals budget cut plans

KIRKLEES Council this week showed where the axe is likely to fall as it makes unprecedented spending cuts.

Youth services, glass collections and public events have all been suggested to take cuts, with 1,700 council jobs to be lost in the process.

But when top councillors met this week they said there were no plans to close libraries, museums, sports centres or schools.

At a Kirklees Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, council leader Coun Mehboob Khan said the budget was the biggest challenge in his experience of local government.

But he said winter road gritting and street cleaning services would remain as they were and neighbourhood policing would be protected. He also restated the council’s aim to create 35,000 jobs in Kirklees within 20 years.

Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Kath Pinnock said that funding would be preserved to build a new sixth form college in north Kirklees.

Conservative group leader Coun Robert Light said he was proud that Kirklees Council had worked on a cross-party basis to agree the cuts.

He said he was pleased that the council now had the opportunity to rethink its entire budget instead of spending hours debating tiny fractions of it.

The council needs to cut £83m from its budget over the next three years. This is partly a result of a cut in government funding for new buildings and equipment from £68m this year to £42m in 2011/12.

Around £30m of savings have already been found by making the council more efficient, making more effective use of buildings and investing in IT.

Coun Khan said: “None of us stands for election on the basis that we want to make cuts that could undermine our priorities or reduce services.

“But we have a collective responsibility to set a budget that combines what we want to do with what we believe are the least worst cuts for individual communities and Kirklees as a whole.”

The budget proposals agreed at the cabinet meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall will be recommended to a meeting of the full council on February 23.

Budget teams were still working on the detail of the cuts just a few hours before the meeting opened.

Detailed public reports were still not available online yesterday morning, after the huge files crashed the council’s website.

Earlier, councillors agreed to restrict access to day centres and home care services, so that only disabled adults that have a critical need can use them.

The cabinet also agreed to cancel the council tax reduction scheme, which gave pensioners a three per cent reduction in their payments.

Coun Pinnock said: “It is no use pretending that services will not be affected by the cuts. Some will. There will be less to spend on road improvements for instance.

“However, given the financial climate I believe that the three political groups have produced the best solution possible to meet the fixed level of funding available.”

All three party leaders said the 2011/12 budget was the most challenging that any of them could remember.