Safer city plan may be unsafe

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A SCHEME that protects the safety of everybody in the city faces a massive 83 per cent budget chop from the council.

SaferMK was launched with aplomb five years ago and has proved an unmitigated triumph.

A joint initiative between the council, police, fire service and NHS Milton Keynes, it offers everything from street-patrolling wardens and taxi marshals to CCTV cameras and campaigns to help vulnerable adults.

Such is its success that experts believe it has played a significant part in reducing the city crime statistics.

But this week the council confessed its so-far secret plans to slash its contribution to the SaferMK budget by up to £1 million as part of a crippling round of budget cuts.

This means the scheme will only survive if the other authorities agree to pick up the deficit or if more volunteer labour is used.

Even then it could be a “slimmed-down” version, admitted Liberal Democrat cabinet member councillor Chris Williams.

“There is no doubt that SaferMK is very necessary in Milton Keynes. I am confident we will find the ways and means to make it continue, though it may be a slimmed down service,” he said.

Other councillors have slammed the council for keep the SaferMK proposal a secret.

The matter appeared on the Safer and Stronger Committee on Tuesday on a confidential red paper which could not be read by the public.

Labour councillor Nigel Long said: “I think the council is wrong to hide proposals for such serious cuts. We wanted a full, open and frank debate on this subject but we were offered a debate behind closed doors.”

The proposed cuts include £100,000 from the domestic violence budget, £130,000 from tackling violent extremism, £130,000 from a project for vulnerable adults, £59,000 from the anti-social behaviour scheme and £35,000 from a Safe at Home initiative.

Said Mr Long: “These cuts would have a huge impact on the safety of people in Milton Keynes. It would also be a false economy as our crime rate would undoubtedly rise.”

Now councillors have agreed to spend the next few weeks investigating the possibility of alternative funding to continue some of the projects.