Fears for district economy grow as cuts are identified

A COUNCIL hit list of 12 possible services to be slashed to help claw back £1.5m in savings has been criticised for cutting at the heart of Richmondshire's economy.

Richmondshire District Council announced yesterday that it has put 12 service areas up for public consultation, including shutting down tourist information centres, charging people to park their cars, increasing council fees and charges by eight per cent instead of four per cent, and moving public toilets.

The plans have come under fire for the possible impact they could have on tourism in the district which is a huge contributor to the rural economy.

Councillor John Blackie, council spokesman on equality and diversity, said: "Clearly we have to be worried about the effect these cuts will have.

"I'm worried we will price ourselves out of car parking as there is only so much people are prepared to pay and if it stops them coming in the first place it will have huge effects on the prosperity of our towns.

"I'm also very worried about the tourist information centres, while these will not be cut in the Yorkshire Dales National Park but in Leyburn and Richmond, these are still popular tourist destinations and have local economies heavily reliant on tourism."

Richmondshire District Council says it needs to find about 1.5m in savings over the next four years – the bulk of it by 2012 – although the final amount will not be known until the Government's funding announcement following the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Members have already found about 1.15m that can be clawed back in savings and efficiencies over the two years – 400,000 of which comes from services shared with Hambleton District Council.

And they have already drawn up a hit list of 12 possible areas that could bring in the remaining 500,000.

Council leader Coun Fleur Butler said: "We have put them in an order of priority – which has involved input from all the political groups on the council – but we now need to know what our council taxpayers think.

"It is not the case that there is total agreement within the council on these proposals but making cuts is very tough and vital if we are to maintain our frontline services."

The full list is available at www.richmondshire.gov.uk/surveys/savings.