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Cabinet makes the pounds stack up.

Mansfield District Council's Cabinet set out its budget proposals yesterday (16 January) and despite being another "challenging" year ahead, a raft of proposed efficiencies across the authority means the Council can deliver a balanced budget for 2012/13.

Last year it was estimated that the Council would need to find an additional £719,000 to fill the budget gap in 2012/13.

In fact, the gap widened to £3.4m. This is mainly because of reduced income from car parking, building regulations and property lettings due to the economic climate. Bank interest rates have stayed lower for longer than previously predicted meaning the Council is getting less return on its investments. Central Government grants were also reduced more than initially predicted.

However, a list of more than 60 efficiency and income generation proposals has been drawn up, which not only hits the savings target, but also allows a freeze in Council Tax.

Money has also been set aside to help stimulate the local economy by working with local businesses and partners to create more job opportunities through apprenticeships and back to work schemes. At the Cabinet meeting, the proposed pot of £100,000 was topped up by £38,000 when the Executive Mayor asked for the budget to be amended to remove money set aside for a ward democracy pilot scheme (due to central government creating a scheme of a similar nature which the Council would look to be part of) and transferred into the economic intervention fund. This proposal was agreed by the Cabinet.

The proposals mean that Meden Sports Centre will stay open for the next 12 months at least and will be included in the transfer of the management of the Council's leisure centres to an external leisure provider, due to take place in the summer.

The Cabinet also agreed to introduce an annual charge of £25 (just under 50p per week) for the garden waste collection service. This would allow the Council to roll out the service to around 6,500 households across the District, who have not previously been able to access the service. The service will be available year round, which is an extension to the current eight month service. The charges will allow the Council to protect the service. If the proposal is agreed by Full Council on 25 January, all homes across the District will receive a leaflet detailing the scheme and how to sign up to receive the service.

Other savings and income generation proposals set to be introduced are:

  • Funds allocated for the running costs of the new bus station are not needed until later in the year, saving £138,000.
  • A budget surplus from the Mansfield and Joint Crematorium Committee, saving £158,000.
  • Removing budgets for the Council's contribution to the pension scheme for staff who are not in the scheme, saving £67,000.
  • A one year freeze on recruitment for selected vacant posts saving an estimated £268,000.
  • Contribution to top up the Insurance Reserve is not required, saving £300,000.
  • Review of commercial/retail property rents and expenditure costs, generating £77,000.

The proposals also include adjusting the charges for some of the Council's car parks across Mansfield town centre. Following comments made by shoppers and businesses, a one hour charge will be re-introduced in nine car parks. The reduced price two hour ticket, which came into force last year, will remain at specified car parks. For people making a flying visit into town, they can still park free of charge for up to half an hour at the car parks to the rear of the Old Town Hall and on Queen Street. The aim is to attract more people to the town centre to help stimulate business.

The Council will continue to invest in its housing stock and has allocated £4million to maintain homes above the Decent Homes Standard.

The proposal is to not increase Council Tax in 2012/13, tacking advantage of the government's allocation of Council Tax freeze grant of £147,000.

Cllr Roger Sutcliffe, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Deputy Mayor, said: "This budget is designed to limit the impact of the current austerity measures on residents and businesses and continue the long term sustainability of the District finances. However, meeting these priorities, finding the necessary savings and delivering a balanced budget is becoming an increasingly challenging task.

"We have listened to concerns of the public and have attempted to address their issues, whilst acknowledging our on going challenges.

"Despite these difficult financial times, we are determined to offer financial stimulus to those seeking employment through apprenticeships, or getting back into work, and assisting local companies and partners to boost the local economy to the benefit of all."

Full Council will consider the budget and set Council Tax for 2012/13 on 25 January. If these proposals are not approved, the Mayor has to inform Council by 8 February if he intends to submit an alternative budget. He must then submit an alternative/revised budget if necessary by 15 February. The Council tax resolution including precepts from other authorities will be made by Council on 6 March.

Published 17 January 2012

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