Council tax freeze for Broadland - but £1.4m of savings needed by 2018
Councillors unanimously approved budget proposals for a tax freeze in Broadland – although they warned £1.4m of savings would be needed by 2018.
And ruling Conservatives said staff would be affected as they attempted to deal with government cutbacks, which would reduce their budget by £350,000 a year for the next four years from 2014/15.
But Paul Carrick, cabinet member for finance, insisted the 2013/14 budget included no service reductions and they would not be rushing into any changes.
He told last night's council meeting: 'This is a big ask. We are all in this together, members and officers alike. £1.4m over four years is going to put everybody's minds to the job.
'We have the income generation committee, which is trying to think of ways of negotiating, rather than making cuts.
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'One of the things that we have been wrongly accused of is being a bankrupt council and one that has to rely on new houses to be built to survive. It's not the case. We have 300 houses a year in the budget and no more than that – and it's a very conservative number.
'The medium-term financial plan shows we are far from bankrupt. Using our reserves in a careful manner will leave us £6m in reserves – way above the new £2m reserve we say we should have. That doesn't mean we should be complacent but it gives us time to get it right.'
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Mr Carrick said 50pc of Broadland's £12m annual budget was spent on salary costs for its near-280 staff members.
He said: 'If we are going to make savings it will affect staff – not in a rush but in a very professional way. We don't think of numbers and quotes in the press of how many we have got to sack. That's not our style at all.'
Two redundancies have been made following the recent decision to disband the strategy, community and housing team.
Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Nich Starling criticised the 'incompetent' actions of the government's communities department for constantly changing the advice, policies and rules for councils.
He said he supported the Broadland budget, before adding: 'We welcome the fact there's an acknowledgement there's financial challenges and that's reflected in the budget.'
Danny Buck, Hellesdon North West Conservative, started the meeting by apologising for his behaviour at last month's full council meeting, where he was heard yawning loudly and laughing as job losses were debated.
He told councillors: 'I apologise profusely that my actions may have given the impression that I do not respect the hard work and loyalty shown by the staff of Broadland council.'
Mr Buck then left the meeting as he was not feeling very well.