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Tax rises and reserve raids emerge in first round of budget plans

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Council tax rises, the use of reserves and cuts to waste budgets are among the plans for 2015-16 set out in the first tranche of council budget proposals, published this week.

Kent CC, Lambeth LBC, Devon CC, Leeds City Council and Nottinghamshire CC are among the first to announce details of how they plan to implement further cuts next year.

Kent CC’s plan includes a 1.99% council tax rise. The authority intends to outsource more of its services, cut payments to suppliers and consider abandoning some capital projects.

Other suggestions are to speed up the integration of its social care with NHS services and to improve social care preventative services to reduce future demand.  Kent’s cabinet member for finance, John Simmonds (Con), said this year’s budget was “the toughest we’ve ever faced”.

He said the authority was publishing proposals early, in the hope of maximising the number of residents that participated in a consultation on the plans.

Kent CC has set up an online budget tool with which residents can attempt to balance the council’s budget themselves.

Lambeth LBC’s 2015-16 plan aims to persuade residents to do more so that the council can focus on expensive core services such as social care. An example is that ‘street champions’ will be appointed to encourage residents to clean their own streets and discourage people from dropping litter and gum.

“We are working to encourage people to take more responsibility for their actions as well as their community,” said Lambeth’s cabinet member for finance, Paul McGlone (Lab).

Devon CC is consulting with residents on its roads and waste budgets. The council proposes to save £700,000 a year by cutting grass verges only where necessary for road safety reasons. It also plans to cut the road gritting service. 

The consultation from Nottinghamshire CC proposes more service delivery through the not-for-profit sector, although the council has not said which services could be delivered in this way. The authority wants to conduct more transactions and communications online and may call on its reserves to avoid severe cuts.

Meanwhile, a paper prepared for Leeds City Council’s executive board proposes using £5.5m from reserves next year, up from £3.5m this year. 

Suggested savings include greater diversion of waste from landfill and completing the roll-out of fortnightly bin collections. It wants to increase support for children to continue to live with their families and assist staff in the creation of a social enterprise to support people with learning disabilities. 

The council intends to increase the number of homes built and so maximise income from the new homes bonus and council tax.

No date has yet been announced for the publication of the local government finance settlement, or of details of the rules on council tax thresholds, both of which may change authorities’ plans.

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