Authority proposes Council Tax freeze

Joseph Bulmer

Savings of more than �1million will counter cut in government grant

A freeze in Council Tax levied by North Devon Council will be achieved if a draft budget for the coming year is approved by the authority’s Executive next week.

Heads of service have identified savings totalling �1,043,740 to produce a balanced budget and counter a loss of government grant amounting to �1.2 million.

But the proposed �13 million budget for 2011-12 would result in some hefty reductions in support the council gives to outside organisations, although there would be no compulsory redundancies or loss of frontline services.

Council Leader Des Brailey paid tribute to officers and staff for finding huge savings in a review of day-to-day spending, but warned that another �800,000 would have to be cut from the 2012-13 budget because of the economic squeeze.

“We have indicated that we would need to reduce the number of people working in the council by 50 over four years, but we think we can do that by natural wastage,” he told a press briefing. “We have good people working for us and we need to send them the right message.

“We have not looked at cutting out services, but it would be foolhardy to suggest that we wouldn’t have some reductions.”

Biggest budget losers this year would be North Devon Theatres which would lose grant money totalling �70,000 and a further �35,000 in support given to the annual North Devon Festival.

North Devon Plus would lose �55,000 and the Citizens Advice Bureau �10,000. However, a proposal to remove the �32,000 grant paid to the North Devon Coast and Countryside Service is being reviewed and there would be no impact on money paid to local Tourist Information Centres.

Other savings have been achieved by stopping the council staff car leasing scheme, reviewing staff working patterns and restructuring the management following retirements.

The council magazine is being merged with the one produced by Devon County Council to save more than �28,000.

But Mr Brailey warned the new council to be elected in May would have to look for more savings in the future, some of which couold be achieved by sharing services with other authorities.