No job or service cuts planned this year in Epsom and Ewell

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Epsom Council is not planning to cut either jobs or services this year despite having to save half a million pounds.

It intends to raise council tax by 1.99 per cent, beneath the level that would trigger a referendum, and raise council service fees and charges by around 2.5 per cent - in line with inflation.

A spokeswoman said: "There are no planned service cuts. The council is redesigning the way it delivers some of its services. No staff reductions are being made."

She said upgrading the IT system for customer services, making more services available online and reducing overhead reductions were among measures which should save about £400,000.

Increases in rent and other charges should generate an additional £100,000.

Resideents' Association Councillor Neil Dallen, chairman of the scrutiny committee, in a budget speech warned that cuts would have to be made in future years to save £1.5m by 2016.

Coun Dallen said: "I believe that we cannot continue to make this size of savings without our services being affected."

The cost of a single Dial-a-Ride ticket is going up by 7.5 per cent and the cost of community alarms and sandwiches delivered by Meals on Wheels by 5 per cent.

Only people on benefits will be eligible for free pest control of rats from April and treatment for wasps is being axed.

Labour Councillor Sheila Carlson said there had been ‘indirect’ staff cuts at the council because people who left had not always been replaced.

She also highlighted a lack of heating at the town hall last winter, adding: "They have made savings, but at what a cost?"

Lib Dem Councillor Julie Morris pointed out most of the large capital investments went to rural areas such as Epsom Downs.

This year £30,000 is being spent on a hut for Epsom Downskeepers and £122,000 is being set aside as ‘contingency provision’ for maintaining a sand track for horses.

She said: "This is a massive amount of money that the local authority puts into very valuable local spaces but has the time come to review just how much benefit we are getting for this?"

External funding will be used to improve Gatley Avenue Playground, in West Ewell, and BMX/skate facilities at Long Grove Park and Cox Lane.

A council spokeswoman said other main areas of capital investment were affordable housing and grants for disabled people.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is being given £12,000 extra this year to recruit a supervisor to train more advisers to deal with an influx of clients due to benefit changes from April.

The council plans to spend £40m this year. Half of this will go on housing benefits which will be reimbursed by the Government.

Its planned income is £6m from council tax, £3m from government grants, £1m from business rates, £2m from rents and £8m from fees and charges.

In 2011/12 the council spent £42m.

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