Buses and leisure services lined up for possible Milton Keynes covid budget axe

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Cuts are looming large at Milton Keynes Council in the wake of the coronavirus crisis – with bus subsidies and leisure services emerging as first in line for the axe.

MK Council has already cut spending on management by £500,000 but the prospects of them slashing services directly used by the public loomed in front of councillors this week.

Calling on the Conservative government for more financial help, the council’s cabinet member for the budget warned that more help is needed within weeks.

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Cllr Rob Middleton (Lab, Wolverton) told Tuesday’s meeting of the cabinet that the “likelihood is that a number of vital local services will be hit, the first of which is likely to be bus services.

“If we don’t have an announcement this month from central government, we will have to take decisions around bus services in October,” he said.

He also warned that it is “also likely that leisure services are one of the areas that are going to be hit hardest, and decisions are probably going to have to be made before Christmas.”

The coronavirus crisis has seen a £3 million black hole open up in the budget as fewer people park in council spaces in the city centre.

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Its income has also been blasted as it allows more people to pay reduced council tax, and a £4million drop in the amount it is collecting from business rates.

Subsidised bus services are at risk of cuts, a leading councillor has warnedSubsidised bus services are at risk of cuts, a leading councillor has warned
Subsidised bus services are at risk of cuts, a leading councillor has warned

At the same time it is spending £2 million more on adult social care, providing more temporary accommodation for people being made homeless.

Tory budget spokesman Cllr Allan Rankine (Bletchley Park) wants more work done on understanding the potential risks to the council’s funding.

He claimed that the “current expectation should be that the council is in the lowest risk trajectory” and that the council still has £5million out of £16 million in government grants still in the pot.

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But Cllr Middleton said all £16 million “has been allocated fully against covid 19 impacts” and while welcome it was a “drop in the ocean”.

Cllr Rob Middleton gave a stark warning over possible budget cuts in MKCllr Rob Middleton gave a stark warning over possible budget cuts in MK
Cllr Rob Middleton gave a stark warning over possible budget cuts in MK

Council leader Pete Marland (Lab, Wolverton) added: “I hope it’s just politics rather than his views because it is financially illiterate.”

After the meeting Tory leader Cllr Alex Walker (Stantonbury) said these are challenging times for the entire public sector and that the Government needs to “stand by its promise to support local authorities.” Cllr Walker says he has lobbied the Government to say that.

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