Tories buy into £15m council budget chop

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A £15.2 million council budget crisis is to be solved by cutting staff and buying in services for everything from education to transport next year.

The privatisation proposals were due to be unveiled by the ruling Tory Cabinet councillors yesterday (Wednesday) as the Citizen went to press.

This will be the fourth year in succession that Milton Keynes Council has been forced to slash its ever-reducing budget by millions of pounds.

In the Cabinet papers officers admit: “New savings are becoming increasingly difficult to identify and deliver.”

Though the Tories are confident cuts can be “absorbed” in 2014, they have been warned the picture may be different the following year.

Officers state: “The reductions required to deliver the savings in 2015 and for subsequent years will require major changes to services and difficult decisions about service reductions.”

The draft plans show £1.3 million chopped from adult social care and health, £1.8 million from education, £2.3 million from planning and transportation and £1.7 million from integrated support and social care.

There is a further £2.5 million suggested saving on ‘finance, governance and PR’. But the council’s own ‘corporate core’ would be reduced by just £325,000.

Rents will go up by 3.5 per cent, bring the average payment to £87.70 a week.

Council tax however will not increase, meaning the council will qualify for the Government’s Council Tax Freeze Grant.

Andrew Geary, leader of the council, told the Citizen: “It is a good budget. We are making savings but I am positive there will be no reduction of service to the public.”

He said this was due to an “entrepreneurial” approach, centred around buying in services previously provided by council staff.

“We cannot carry on delivering services in-house when the commercial sector can provide them more cheaply.

“I really do not think the public care who delivers the services as long as they get those services and the quality they need.”

The proposals mean between 70 and 80 council jobs would be lost.

Said Mr Geary: “We are looking at everything we spend and questioning whether we can get the service at a better price. But we are not making any cuts – we are simply redesigning.”