Up to 500 jobs could go as council looks to save £70m

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DONCASTER Council is set to make cuts of £26m as it looks to freeze council tax and expects to have to find a further £70m of savings in the next three years.

Plans put forward by Mayor Peter Davies could see the council cut up to 500 jobs over the next two years.

Services for children and young people face the biggest cuts with proposals including the closure of three children’s centres.

The plan also includes spending £42m on the Finningley and Rossington Regeneration Route Scheme which will provide a new link road to Robin Hood Airport and open up new land for development as well as £116m for housing improvements as part of a four year investment programme.

Mr Davies said: “My officers and I have spent many hours working this through with the Labour group and I am confident we have reached a place where I am proposing a budget that is the best for the people of Doncaster in the current financial climate.

“We are now entering the third year of a tough initial four year financial settlement. We have to save £26m this year on top of the £68m we have already taken out of our budget in the last two years. The decisions we make get harder and harder each year as essentially we have already made the easiest savings.

“The scale of the reductions derives from problems in the national economy, and was not created in Doncaster, but the council is determined to respond to the challenge and try to protect the interests of Doncaster residents. It requires a radical approach and determination in delivering change.

“We aim to continue to protect the interests of the most vulnerable, to maintain policies that will help the borough to thrive, to protect expenditure in areas where Doncaster services have not been good enough in the past, and to look for different ways of providing services which will make them sustainable beyond this budget period.”

If the plans are approved the council tax on a band D property will be held at £1,101 before precepts are added, the third year in a row the charge has been frozen.

To help meet the funding gap, the average hourly fee charged for home care will rise from £11.28 to £12.08 although the Mayor stressed that means-testing would mean there was no change for 80 per cent of those using the service.

The proposals also include the ending of a policy which sees councillors allocated £10,000 to spend on their areas in a move that will save the council £226,000 a year.

The Glebe House Day Centre used by people with dementia will close while those in residential care are expected to face increases of between £3 and £8 per week.

The four year investment plan will see £6m spent on the White Rose Way and £13m on other transport improvements aimed at attracting more businesses to set up in the town.

Money will also be spent on extra administrative staff in a move designed to free up social workers to spend more time working with families.

Mr Davies added: “Setting the budget is not an easy process and there will never be 100 per cent agreement however I believe this budget offers the best compromises for the people of Doncaster and goes a long way to protect vital services for those who need them most.

“Here in Doncaster we have protected essential services while cutting waste and bureaucracy within the council. Council tax remains one of the lowest in the country.”

The budget proposals will be discussed further by the council before final approval is given on February 21.