James Evison 28 November 2016

Reading BC to sign off further £10.5m in cuts

Reading BC is set to sign off another £10.5m in efficiency savings as the local authority aims to fill a £42m funding gap.

The local authority’s policy committee will meet next Monday (5 December) to agree to the package of measures, which includes both cost savings and plans to grown potential revenue streams at the council.

Plans include opening up public buildings to weddings and civil ceremonies, opening up council-owned car parks for public use and also selling off assets, which are currently in storage.

Other policies include identifying savings in children’s services commissioning, sharing public health duties with neighbouring local authorities, further cuts to care packages and reductions in the council tax support scheme.

Leader of the council, Cllr Jo Lovelock, slammed the decision, stating that the funding decision was ‘not fair’ as neighbouring Wokingham only had to cut £66 per person compared to Reading’s £150 per citizen.

The council has already closed swimming pools, cut library hours, introduced charging for green waste bins and cut funding to the voluntary sector as part of its overall spend since 2011.

Lovelock said: 'The scale of government cuts this council faces is unprecedented.

'I would ask residents to think about the effect a 40% cut in wages would have on their household income.

'The average national wage is around the £27,500 mark. If you cut that figure by 40%, your monthly wage packet falls from £2,290 to just £1,458. Add to that the rising cost of living - including food and energy bills - and any family would struggle to make ends meet.

'That is the reality of the size of the challenge the council faces. The 40% figure does not even take into account the substantial additional costs of the rising demands on key council services.'

Lovelock concluded that ‘more difficult decisions’ will ‘follow in the months and years to come in the context of the extreme budget challenge we face.’

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