Solihull Council has announced plans to slash 10 per cent of its budget this year but has denied there would be redundancies as part of its plan to make £15 million of savings.
Cuts will be made across the board, but the Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition-run authority said council tax could be frozen at the same rates as 2010-11, with a band D property taxed at £1,173.72.
The majority of the savings will come from the leader, resources and efficiency department, totalling £5 million, as well as £4 million from the children and young people portfolio. Environment services are listed as receiving a £2.5m reduction, although this is largely as a result of the council pulling out of controversial PFI waste incinerator programme Project Transform last year.
Community services could be slashed by £476,300, healthier communities by £407,443 and transport by £203,000.
Cross-cutting and “lean” efficiency reviews are aimed to bring £2 million savings.
The council’s financial strategy is also reliant on finding one-off savings totalling £4.4 million in order to balance the books.
The proposals were drawn up by a cross-party corporate budget working group following a public consultation during October and November, which revealed most respondents would prefer bigger cuts in arts, tourism and leisure services than elsewhere. But the group decided against the idea.
Council leader Ian Hedley (Lib Dem, Shirley East) said: “We as councillors look at a slightly bigger picture and we see leisure services as contributing towards well-being. If people go to the gym or for a swim, or take part in cultural activities, it saves money on the health budget. So we didn’t want to cut heavily in that area.”
In an attempt to shave £600,000 off its already stretched children’s services, the authority is seeking a five per cent budget reduction through greater efficiencies. In the case of those who look after unaccompanied asylum seeking children, this will mean giving staff heavier workloads.
It claims the children’s services reduction would need to be achieved without affecting frontline delivery, where there has been a 23 per cent increase in referrals over the last two years. Nearly £350,000 savings could come from a review of the care service, with a total £278,250 saving through a redesign of the borough’s day care services provision, and a further £70,000 from a review of carers’ payments and care support.
Deputy leader and cabinet member for resources and efficiency Coun Andy Hodgson said the majority of proposed savings would come from cost-cutting efficiency measures, such as centralising IT facilities.
He said there were no plans for redundancies at this stage, with savings instead made through keeping vacancies open, reducing agency employees and redeploying staff.
The council currently has 253 vacant full-time equivalent posts.
A review of existing vacancies in the council’s IT and service development teams will bring total savings of £90,700.