Spending on mayor set to be cut as council seeks £1.5m savings

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THE chauffeur service for the Mayor of Scarborough is due to be axed as part of wide-ranging cuts to the budget for civic duties.

The mayor will be faced with either driving or catching a taxi to civic events under the proposals drawn up following a major review.

A task group was established in September last year by Scarborough Borough Council to look at ways of cutting costs after tax- payers were overwhelmingly in favour of reducing the mayoral budgets.

The council is having to make more than £1.5m in savings across all its services in the new financial year to counter a dramatic fall in the Government’s funding.

The task group’s chairwoman, Coun Dilys Cluer, stressed that while the mayoral title remains key to promoting the borough of Scarborough, there is a fundamental need to cut costs in the authority.

Other proposed cost-cutting measures include ending the annual mayor-making evening reception and cutting the mayor’s hospitality funds for the Scarborough Cricket Festival, which lays claim to being the oldest of its kind in the world.

A more formal system is due to be introduced to assess civic duties after initial plans were drawn up to reduce the number of events the mayor attends each year from 500 to just 100.

Officers are also due to carry out a feasibility study to look at leasing or securing sponsorship for a mayoral car to provide a long-term solution.

Coun Cluer said: “People will have different views about what should be cut back, and not everyone will be in favour of our recommendations.

“Some residents feel that other services such as refuse collection and street cleaning are more important, although their views may differ from the people who have direct contact with the mayor.

“We recognise that it is a very important title, but at the same time the savings do need to be made.”

A mayoral title for Scarborough has existed since 1836, and the remit was extended to the whole of the borough in 1974 following the national overhaul of local government.

A borough-wide consultation in 2010 led to 92.5 per cent of responses calling for less to be spent on mayoral and civic budgets.

A total of 1,379 responses were received after the consultation was sent to 8,000 randomly selected households of the borough’s 55,000 properties.

But further consultations with organisations and event organisers including the South Bay Traders Association, the Friends of Peasholm Park and the Whitby Regatta saw support for the mayor’s role.

The cost of the mayoral service is currently £88,586, with the bulk taken up with employing a civic officer and the contract for a car and chauffeur service.

It is expected the package of measures drawn up by the task group could save as much as £25,000 from the budget. The cost of the chauffeur service was significantly reduced in 2007 when the decision was taken to no longer employ a chauffeur and deputy.

Instead, a contract was introduced that includes the cost of a driver, the car and running costs. However, the contract is due to expire in May, and the task group has recommended that it should not be renewed.

The task group contacted 33 other local authorities across the country to assess their spending on mayors.

Detailed responses were only received from six authorities, and officers at Scarborough Borough Council admitted the information was “variable”. But it emerged Lancaster City Council spent the most with a budget of £42,000 while Waveney District Council in Suffolk had the lowest cost of £1,425 - although this did not include support staff costs.

The proposed cost-cutting measures will be considered by Scarborough Borough Council’s cabinet on Tuesday next week.