Further cutbacks as budget is approved

Sheffield Town hall
Sheffield Town hall
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TOWN hall chiefs in Sheffield have said their approved council budget ‘stands up’ for the city.

A Labour amendment to create 100 new apprenticeships, and allow flexible use of recycling bins, after a further £1.2 million saving windfall was signed off as part of the budget at a full Sheffield Council meeting yesterday.

Party leaders claimed their budget protected frontline services, while hitting out at the Government for leaving Sheffield with a far worse deal than southern cities as they were forced to make £55 million of spending cuts.

Coun Julie Dore, council leader, said: “The implications of this Government’s cuts agenda for Sheffield, and other towns and cities in the north of England, are potentially more devastating than that of the Margaret Thatcher administration of the 1980s.

She told the meeting: “We are left with no alternative but to make a budget with unprecedented cuts that’s at least fair for the people of Sheffield.

“But before you is a budget that stands up for Sheffield, focuses on jobs and is business friendly.”

Coun Dore, however, estimated the council will have to find another £170 million of cuts by 2015 and pledged to cut £1 million on senior managers in the next year.

But opposition councillors said the administration had made the wrong choices – as 550 job losses loom, weekly bin collections are scrapped and a swathe of further cuts look set to take effect.

It is the second year running the council has passed a budget of severe cutbacks after last year making £84 million of spending cuts.

An amendment for the Liberal Democrats was defeated by Labour, which has a large majority in the chamber following last year’s election victory.

The Lib Dems had proposed retaining weekly bin collections, while cutting the pay of top council earners to save low-paid jobs and keeping open three dementia centres which are now under threat of closure.

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Lib Dem leader, said: “Labour councillors have no excuse for going ahead with their unpopular plans.”

A Green Party amendment including delaying a private finance initiative to repair all of Sheffield’s roads in favour of concentrating on urgent repairs amid fears the contract did not offer best value for money was also rejected.

Coun Robert Murphy said: “The Green budget protects our city and protects our council now and in the future.”

Labour and the Lib Dems did agree on how to use a £1.2 million boost after a cut in the amount the council had to pay towards South Yorkshire transport.

That money will go on the new apprenticeships, as well as £400,000 for a Keep Sheffield Working fund to boost private sector growth and £150,000 extra for parks.

A further £150,000 will provide for the city-wide roll out of the flexible blue bin and box recycling scheme halted last year, which will allow residents to choose whether to use their blue bin and box for paper and card or tins and bottles.

The budget was approved as the 46 Labour members voted to approve it, while the 30 Lib Dem councillors opposed it. Coun Murphy and his fellow Green Party member Coun Jillian Creasy abstained.