Job loss fears at district council
PUBLISHED: 09:52 29 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 11 May 2010
JOBS could be under threat at North Herts District Council if interest rates are cut again by the Bank of England. The warning comes as the council tries to balance its budget and is set to cut costs in a number of areas Cabinet members agreed a budget wh
JOBS could be under threat at North Herts District Council if interest rates are cut again by the Bank of England.
The warning comes as the council tries to balance its budget and is set to cut costs in a number of areas
Cabinet members agreed a budget when they met on Tuesday night, but despite making big savings, the council says front line services will not be affected if jobs are cut and there will be no compulsory redundancies.
Fearing another cut in interest rates next Thursday, which would mean a further loss of £200,000 on council investments, the Cabinet has pencilled in an emergency meeting before the full council meeting that evening.
NHDC chief executive John Campbell warned: "We might have to take some very unpalatable decisions if interest rates continue to fall."
Leader of the council Cllr F John Smith said: "We have been extremely badly affected by the national and international financial situation, and it is making life very difficult for the council.
"This is why we have arranged an emergency meeting next Thursday, so if interest rates are cut again by half a per cent we will be asking Cabinet to put forward proposals how we can find further savings of £200,000.
"There is no meat left on our financial bone, and there won't be for a long time.
"But there will be no compulsory redundancies. There never has been while I have been a councillor."
Deputy leader of the council, Cllr Terry Hone, portfolio holder for finance, promised: "We have had to make some tough decisions to balance our budget but whatever happens we will maintain our high level of front line services.
"Councillors have got a good result financially for the people of North Herts. It could have been a lot worse."
Even though savings are being made, the council will forge ahead with its plans for new offices on the old grammar school site in Broadway Gardens, Letchworth GC, at a cost of £10.6 million.
But Cllr Hone defended the cost, saying NHDC would be saving money by having its own building giving the public better access to council facilities.
Cabinet agreed on Tuesday to increase council tax by 4.5 per cent, but motorists using Royston town centre have escaped being hit in the pocket with raised parking costs.
The council is shelving plans to raise charges at its car parks in Princes Mews, the Civic Centre, The Warren, Priory Gardens, John Street, Angel Pavement, and Market Place.
Councillors say parking charges were revised in the town last year, but will almost certainly go up next year.
NHDC has raised charges at its car parks in Hitchin and Letchworth GC.
But in Baldock charges will not be considered until next year when the town centre enhancement scheme has been completed.
The council now says it faces the challenge for 2010/11 when the budget shortfall is expected to hit £1.2m but the council remains confident of meeting that problem, having already secured efficiencies of £3.2 million over the last four years, and staff levels have been reduced by 83 - or 18 per cent of the total workforce, which now stands at about 400.
Efficiencies in the new budget include sending less waste to landfill (£70,000), negotiating a new stationery contract (£15,000), ceasing planning advertising in local papers (£27,830), restructuring of senior management (£100,000), delay in filling vacancies from three to four months (£145,000), increased income from car parking charges (£50,000), allotments (£5,500), car park resurfacing and relining (£50,000), enhanced town centre maintenance in Hitchin and Royston (£45,000), dropping traffic regulation orders (£65,000) and planned maintenance of lines on street parking (£12,000).