An extra £7m in council cuts

cutsram'Bryan Lodge
cutsram'Bryan Lodge
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Tax rise or fortnightly bin collections cannot be ruled out

A FURTHER £7 million of cuts may have to be made to council services this year, the authority’s new Labour administration claims.

cutsram 'Bin men emptying domestic waste bins

cutsram 'Bin men emptying domestic waste bins

They also revealed next year’s cuts may have to be increased by £8m from £48m to £56m - unless they increase council tax by up to four per cent.

Labour councillors say they cannot rule out a council tax rise, or changing bin collections from weekly to fortnightly, which would save £2.4m.

Labour say the extra £7m of possible cuts for this year is a shortfall in planned savings created by problems negotiating with contractors providing council services.

Coun Bryan Lodge, Labour cabinet member for finance, said: “We need to go into the detail of the problems that have been raised and what they mean for the city. It would be irresponsible for us to make comments about what we are going to do about it at this stage.”

cutsram'parking meter

cutsram'parking meter

He said a four per cent council tax increase was ‘not going to happen’ but could not rule out a rise.

Coun Lodge said much of the shortfall in the council’s savings plan had been caused by a ‘cack-handed’ approach to renegotiating deals with contractors.

He said plans to re-finance the Bernard Road waste incinerator operated by Veolia are no longer viable, jeopardising a £570,000 saving. Introduction of Saturday bin collections to save £540,000, due to fewer dustcarts being required, have not yet started.

Redundancies and changes to staff contracts at benefits contractor Capita to save £2 million may only save £1.5m because they were introduced late.

OFF ROAD BIKERS CRACKDOWN    Police Community Support Officers Left, Nigel Eyre and Andy Fuller,  pictured at Herdings, Sheffield.  1 November 2006

OFF ROAD BIKERS CRACKDOWN Police Community Support Officers Left, Nigel Eyre and Andy Fuller, pictured at Herdings, Sheffield. 1 November 2006

Renegotiating Kier’s building management contract, saving £704,000, has also become ‘protracted and difficult’ officers say.

Problems have also been discovered in plans to save £2.4 million by ending the council’s contract with Sheffield Futures to provide careers advice for youngsters.

And Labour say negotiations with Veolia over the cost of changes to recycling collections have still not been completed.

Officials warn 44 of 300 money-saving projects have a ‘less than 75 per cent chance’ of being achieved.

WESTON PARK REVAMP  Weston Park.     29 May 2008

WESTON PARK REVAMP Weston Park. 29 May 2008

But John Mothersole, Sheffield Council’s chief executive, said: “The savings were a complicated package which I’m sure we will achieve in the end.”

Last year, the council was £8 million over-budget in the summer but managed to end the financial year with a £10.5 million underspend.

Labour is pressing ahead with £2.5 million of extra spending on projects such as creating apprenticeships, restoring funding for 10 Police Community Support Officers and reversing cuts to the budgets of Sure Start children’s centres and MuseumsSheffield trust.

Opposition Lib Dem deputy leader, Coun Colin Ross, said: “We were very confident that the cuts made in our budget for 2010/11 could be made or we wouldn’t have approved them. The budget is achievable.”

The Lib Dems’ budget involved saving £84 million by cutting 273 staff including senior management. Park rangers were being cut from 22 to 16, 25 Police Community Support Officers axed, mobile libraries were reduced from four to one, and charges increased for parking and social services.