EXTRA funding totalling almost £2 million has been confirmed by Sheffield’s new Labour city council for a range of projects over the coming year.
The biggest commitments involve £500,000 on a new apprenticeship scheme for young people and £300,000 towards restoring funding for 10 Police Community Support Officers’ posts which had been axed in the outgoing Lib Dems’ budget for 2011/12.
A further £400,000 will be found to boost disabled and elderly people’s personalised care budgets.
Much of the money is coming from extra ‘efficiency savings’ within departments, selling surplus vehicles and using £500,000 of a £1.4m dedicated grant from the Government to fund business-related projects, which will cover the cost of the apprenticeships for one year.
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But opposition Lib Dem councillors have highlighted £432,000 of the funding is coming from the council’s £10m unallocated reserves.
A further £300,000 is from money allocated by the Lib Dems to pay for changes to recycling collections. Labour says the cost can be covered from the existing waste management budget.
The Lib Dems have also attacked the lack of detail about on where the extra funding may come from for personalised care budgets and have asked Labour to rule out increasing charges to raise the money.
Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore said: “The council has delivered on its commitments and priorities to protect our communities and do all we can to improve the quality of life for people by maintaining and protecting those areas of service that people rely on and can have the greatest impact.
“I am pleased to say the council has now restored funding to these areas.
“We’ve decided that the authority had to restore funding to areas that matter to local people and give us the ability to deliver the right kind of services in the right way with the support of local people.”
She added that a further £2.7m which has come available due to last year’s underspend rising to £13.4m from a predicted £10.7m would be put into savings and used next year to help offset the impact of a further £50m of expected cuts.
Lib Dem opposition leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “The worrying news is that Labour are dipping into the healthy level of reserves the Lib Dems left, in order to fund much of this £2m programme.
“While it is tempting to go on a spending splurge like this I would urge restraint. We need the resources to ensure vital front line services are protected and council tax is kept to a minimum.”
Coun Mohammed questioned where the extra £800,000 of efficiency savings were going to come from ‘when the council leadership is claiming that not all of the cuts we planned for this year can be made’.
Sheffield Council is still negotiating with contractors providing services to achieve £7m of the £84m savings required this financial year.
Here’s where the cash will go:
£247k to reinstate subsidies for the children’s centres
£135k of restored grant aid for voluntary, community and faith groups
£132k to restore free bulky waste collections and rat catching
£80k of extra cash for Museums Sheffield to restore opening hours
Cash to ensure the library service for Weston Park Hospital continues.