Street cleaning and voluntary sector grants could be hit as Breckland Council starts cuts consultation

A stripped-down Breckland Council that stops fulfilling some of its legal obligations could emerge from a public consultation about how to save �3.5m over the next five years.

The council has tentatively divided its estimated �12.4m net spend next year into �9.3m used for a 'basic level of service' it legally has to provide and �3.1m spent on 'extras' to see what functions it provides above the legal minimum.

The list of 'extras' includes scheduled street cleaning, free rubbish collection for schools and churches, CCTV contracts, the community transport scheme, voluntary sector grants and free car parking.

The council will present residents with a menu of services and how much they cost in a series of public meetings in the autumn, and ask for their views.

Cabinet member Ian Sherwood said: 'It's really a question of do you want a bottle of wine or do you want four bottles of lager. Which way are you going to spend your money.'

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He said the council wanted to be open with the public so they understand its position, and he expected a mixture of service cuts, new charges and possibly council tax rises to emerge from the process.

Labour leader Terry Jermy praised the council for going through an open process, but raised concerns about many of the possible cuts, and said reducing councillor allowances should be added to the list.

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He said: 'Obviously we don't know which [services] are going to go, but the list of possibilities and the list of what's legally required and what's not is very scary.'

Providing a basic level of service emerged as councillors' second most popular preference for Breckland Council at an April workshop, behind providing a strategic role.

Business development manager Ben Wood said the Government had produced a list of about 1,000 things councils legally must do, but Breckland could stop doing some if it thought the legal risk was worth it.

He said: 'Because a lot of this stuff has not been tested in the courts there's no precedent. We may well end up setting that.'

Council leader William Nunn said he would like to see any profit made through introducing parking reserved for matching funding for community grants.

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