The biggest cuts in Doncaster’s history have been passed with only minimal opposition from councillors left with no choice.
Councillors, who arrived to face protesters outside Mansion House angry at proposals to close down Sycamore Primary School in Cantley, set aside their political differences to back a budget which states £71 million of savings have to be found between now and 2015.
This year will be the hardest, with almost £30 million cut from council expenditure, reducing to £20 million of savings next year.
Council tax has been frozen so extra revenue must be raised from increased charges for council services such as parking, funerals and leisure facilities, slashing the workforce by at least 700 people and making savings across all departments.
The council is also looking at closing Sycamore Primary in August because of surplus places, even though the school was praised as ‘good’ by Ofsted only months ago.
The only morsels of comfort were a promise by Mayor Peter Davies that services for vulnerable adults and children would be bolstered and a pledge that the axe hovering over the Bullcroft Youth Inclusion Programme at Carcroft will not fall.
Government grants to Doncaster for the year 2011-12 have been cut by 11.3 per cent, which is more than the national average.
Mr Davies said this year would be the biggest challenge the council had ever faced because of the draconian cuts imposed without consultation by the Coalition Government.
He outlined the savings already in the pipeline, which include £1.18 million cut by restructuring senior management, £7.7 million saved in buying services and £6.6 million less spent on support services such as consultants.
“Staffing numbers are down by 700 but we may have to consider more, although virtually all of those have been on a voluntary basis,” he said. “It has been a challenge for officers to look at their own teams and decide how to reduce the waste of money.”
Referring to the Bullcroft Youth Inclusion Programme, which provides Continued from page one
alternative activities to keep children off the streets, Mr Davies said he had been impressed with its success and was considering others in Stainforth and Denaby.
He reiterated that threatened branch libraries could not remain the same just because they had always been there.
He said: “This has been the opportunity to take a hard look at the council and start a four-year process. There is a long way to go in balancing the books, but I remain committed to the protection of frontline services.”
Labour group leader Sandra Holland expressed her party’s total opposition to the Government cuts and said they were “going down a path we did not come into politics to go down”.
Community Group leader Martin Williams suggested Cabinet members should start the cuts in “their own back yard” by reducing their allowances by half to save £200,000 a year.
Asked by Coun Stuart Exelby if he could forecast how many more council job losses there might be, Mr Davies said he could not give a figure, but it would be as few as possible.
“I’ll do my level best to save jobs where possible.”
The budget was carried by 50 votes to seven.
The new man in charge of running the council’s finances is Simon Wiles, who has been appointed as director of finance and corporate services on a salary of £112,695 a year.