TOUGH times are afoot in Thurrock as the council braces itself to make savings of around £13million this year, and £9million the next.
The council’s Labour cabinet was expected to agree a raft of draft cuts devised by officers at its latest meeting tonight (Wednesday), which will then go through the overview and scrutiny process before being debated by the full council in February.
The proposed cuts include £250,000 to borough police community support officers (Thurrock is currently the only authority in the county that subsidises PCSOs) £100,000 to the library service, £80,000 by trimming the grass cutting budget by ten per cent, and £50,000 from the fraud team by reducing the spending on agency staff.
The council also hopes to save £200,000 by putting the home to school transport contracts out to tender.
Cuts proposed for 2014 and 2015 include asking the Thameside Theatre in Grays to make savings of £250,000, and cutting the school improvements budget by £125,000.
Council leader John Kent has previously promised a “calm and measured approach” to having to make the cuts, and has said the authority is “competently getting on with finding savings that don’t effect frontline services”.
He also encouraged residents to have their say on how best to save money via the council’s Let’s Talk initiative on its website. Meanwhile Phil Anderson, leader of the council’s Conservative opposition, accused the Labour administration of “ducking the difficult decisions” by making lots of small cuts across the council rather than a “proper” strategy to control overall spending.
He said: “I have criticised them every year for failing to make any real reforms in the high spending areas, and once again their proposals look to be tinkering around the edges.
“Labour have resisted reform of Thurrock’s centralised education department, refused to relinquish control of loss-making leisure facilities and paid lip service to devolving decision making power to communities.
“Their proposals instead include plans to cut community policing and environment services, and “savings” that will cost more in the long run, like cuts to the fraud team.
“I hope that as more proposals come to light in the next few weeks the overall budget will be something residents and councillors alike can agree on, rather than yet another Doctor Dolittle budget which delays any real reform until we reach crisis point.”