Raft of cuts proposed ahead of budget meeting
Car parking charges are set to be levied at the borough’s public parks, and funding to the Duke of Edinburgh scheme stopped as part of this year’s budget.
Merton Council’s draft business plan for 2013-17 will go before full council next week recommending residents be spared a rise in council tax, but also a raft of savings and cuts to services to offset a £6.2m cut in Government funding.
Merton is the only south London council not to be proposing a council tax increase or cutting council tax support for low income families.
Parking charges have been proposed at Wimbledon Park, Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields, Abbey recreation ground, Haydons Road recreation ground and Joseph Hood recreation ground – a move predicted to generate £44,000.
Funding to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme could also be cut, saving £25,000 and instead leaving schools and youth organisations to pick up the cost.
The Polka children’s theatre and Attic Theatre group also face a cut of £5,000 a year, while the voluntary sector will be hit with cuts of £141,000 over four years.
The overview and scutiny committee recommended that cabinet reject all three of these proposals, and said more work was needed on proposals to introduce parking charges.
Also in the budget are plans to have day centre staff become responsible for collecting users and taking them home – a change estimated to save £20,000.
Seven jobs within children’s and youth services could also be lost as part of a plan to
integrate families, youth offending and education departments saving £420,000 over four years.
The cash office at the civic centre could close in a bid to save £30,000 with alternative payment systems already in place, while the borough’s street lighting budget will be cut by £50,000.
While a plan to introduce a system to allow motorists to pay for parking via their mobile phones will save £37,000 by reducing the need for pay and display machines.
But with the council predicting an under spend of £4.8m on this year’s budget, and reserves of £28m in the bank, opposition councillors have criticised cuts for being
Councillor Suzanne Grocott, the Conservatives’ finance spokesman said: “Labour is determined to keep cutting services and hiking charges for Merton residents instead of making the efficiency savings we know they could be making.”
Coun Allison, cabinet member for finance said: “I think in many ways it is quite a sad budget because we are in the middle of a process of bringing in £70m cuts to services since 2010.
“But we know that these are hard times for people financially and unlike Conservative councils we are not going to put up council tax for anyone in this borough.”
The draft budget will go before the full council on Wednesday, March 6.