Conservative councillors in Bath & North East Somerset have questioned how the authority’s Lib Dem administration plans to fill a £4 million black hole in their budget plans for next year.
The Council has stated that a total of £12.4 million of savings must be found next year. The Council’s Lib Dem administration has said that it plans to make £8 million of ‘efficiency savings’ in the coming year, but is yet to state where the remaining £4 million will be found.
Of the £4 million unaccounted for, the Liberal Democrats have stated that £1.2 million will be from cuts to unspecified front-line services, leaving the remainder to be in the form of increases to the council’s fees and charges.
Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Resources, Cllr Charles Gerrish, said:
“As the Council has admitted, the Liberal Democrats inherited a golden legacy of balanced budgets and robust levels of reserves. Already this is being squandered, with contingency reserves being pillaged and a £4 million budget black-hole looming.
“The fact the Council is accepting the Government’s funding for a Council Tax freeze next year is very welcome. However, there are currently over £4 million of cuts unaccounted for. The Liberal Democrats say that £1.2 million of this will be in the form of unspecified cuts to services, leaving over £2.5 million to be raised from increases to the council’s fees and charges. At a time of economic turbulence, these increases could prove highly damaging to our local economy.
“Furthermore, it is yet to be seen whether the stated £8 million of ‘efficiency’ savings will have an impact on front-line services, particularly if over £3.5m of these so-called efficiencies are taken from Adult Social Services, as has been suggested. In addition to this, there is no sense that the administration is really preparing for the pressures the council will face in future years, particularly as this year’s Government-funded Council Tax freeze is purely a one-off.”
Responding to claims that the Council will be borrowing less money over the coming years, Cllr Gerrish added:
“The stated reduction in the Council’s borrowing over the next few years is likely to come from funding the Keynsham regeneration project in an alternative way. Without knowing the details of how this is now to be funded, it’s difficult to say whether this will be a genuine saving or not. However, if this means sacrificing either ownership of the building or revenue from the retail units, then this clearly would not be a good deal for local tax-payers and could cost the council significantly more.”