POLL: No U-turn on Hanley HQ move as defiant city council confirms £21m cuts
DEFIANT council leaders today confirmed £21 million cuts will go ahead – and insisted a new HQ in Hanley is the only way Stoke-on-Trent can prosper in the future.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council's final budget proposals for 2013/14 include almost no concessions for campaigners.
It means St Michael's care centre in Chell will shut, half of the city's school lollipop crossing patrols will be axed, 24-hour CCTV monitoring will be scrapped and free nursery class provision will fall from 30 hours a week to the legal minimum of 15 hours. And 200 more jobs will go from April.
The council said Government funding cuts will have triggered savings of £100 million by 2015 – forcing the authority to abandon all but the services it is legally obliged to provide.
Raising new income from business rates will be one of the few ways to offset spending cuts, and leaders today restated their view that Hanley's Central Business District (CBD) – which includes the new civic centre – is vital for sparking economic growth.
Chief executive John van de Laarschot said: "If you can't generate the income, you can't provide the services. It's as simple as that. If we're absolutely serious about curing the biggest malaise in the city – the high levels of worklessness – then we have to stick to our guns."
Last-minute changes to the budget include:
The £191,000-a-year environmental crime unit to tackle fly-tippers and litterbugs cut by just £50,000 rather than shut down;
Free nursery care will be halved to 15-hours a week, saving £1.7 million, but changes will now be introduced in phases leading up to September 2014;
Three of the 43 lollipop patrols facing redundancy in a £101,000 cut will be saved after new safety assessments.
Council Tax will be frozen at £952.47 for Band A properties in exchange for a £600,000 Government grant, equivalent to a one per cent increase.
The council has come under fire over its plan to sell the Civic Centre and other buildings in Stoke and invest up to £55 million in its CBD project.
But Labour and council leader Mohammed Pervez said private businesses will follow the council into the CBD – generating footfall for the planned new City Sentral shopping centre, creating 4,000 jobs and bringing in new business rates. He said: "We must reiterate that we cannot borrow the CBD money to run services. We can borrow money from Government at low interest rates to fund regeneration projects. It will carry on cutting until we can provide nothing but basic statutory services. If we are to continue to provide services, the income has to come from new businesses and we have to provide the right conditions."