City wants volunteers to tidy up

RESIDENTS in Hull will be asked to take responsibility for the appearance of their neighbourhoods under radical plans to tackle a massive funding shortfall at the city council.

The Liberal Democrat-run council needs to slash about 40m from its budget because of a reduction in funding from central Government, and announced a series of service cuts yesterday, including the loss of up to 1,400 jobs.

Nearly 1m would be saved by refocusing street care resources on "high-profile" areas such as the city centre, leading to less work elsewhere.

In its draft budget proposal published yesterday, the council said: "We will refocus our street care resources on making our high-profile areas look their best.

"Efforts will be made to develop and extend voluntary and community sector capacity to undertake some aspects of the work, for example local planting schemes and local pride initiatives. The changes will mean that the frequency of cleansing and grounds maintenance may change in some areas."

Council leader Carl Minns said he did not think the change would be noticed, however.

"We want to protect the city's shop window like the city centre," he said.

"The question is how do we encourage people to take a bit more pride in their communities? I don't think there will be a noticeable difference.

"The council will still be cleaning the streets and cutting the grass, it just might not be with the same frequency.

"The council already does a lot of work with communities and schools with tree planting and bulb planting."

Although it intends to draw on resources in the voluntary and community sector, it plans to save 130,000 by stopping charities having unlimited free access to household waste recycling centres.

Visitors to the entertainment and ice hockey venue Hull Arena would face parking charges for the first time, and the possibility of selling the naming rights to the arena are also being considered.

A lorry park near a park and ride scheme in Priory Park, Hessle, would be closed, and parking charges would be introduced in neighbouring streets to encourage more use of the park and ride.

The council plans to save 112,000 by putting its parking enforcement, or traffic warden, contract out to tender, and wardens would be directed to areas where most parking "contraventions" occur.

The authority will also withdraw from Humber Enterprise Partnership, saving 123,000, reschedule the maintenance of its two golf courses (saving 120,000), and introduce charges for its music services.

The authority wants to save 340m from its museums service, and this would see "unlimited" use of volunteers across all aspects of the service.

It also intends to save 335,000 through eternal funding of council events.

The proposals have been condemned by unions and the opposition Labour group.

Labour group leader Coun Steve Brady said: "One in every five council staff to go and they say front line service won't be affected. It's a fairy story. It's going to deeply affect a place like Hull.

"Every service has been affected. A lot of it is self-inflicted; the East Riding is not having anything like these cuts. The council is being run by a bunch of ex-students who have never done a day's work in their life. It's a shambles and I expect they will pay for it at the election in May."

The council is inviting people to comment on the proposals and will submit its final budget to a meeting of the full council on February 24.