Job and service cuts possible at Pymouth City Council and council tax will rise
JOBS could be lost and cuts to frontline services cannot be ruled out, the city's new finance supremo has warned.
In his first interview since taking office, Cabinet member for finance Cllr Mark Lowry also warned council tax is likely to rise next year.
His interview comes as the Government tightens the screw on public spending.
Painting a bleak picture of the next few months, Cllr Lowry told The Herald:
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The council has ordered a 'complete review' of its spending.
Frontline services are under threat.
Jobs could be cut unless the Government gives the council more cash.
Council tax is likely to go up next year – but he ruled out a big rise.
The council wants residents to join the fight and help it cut costs.
Cuts to council tax benefits could hit people living on their own.
There could be major changes in the way libraries are used – but they will not be closed.
Business rate reforms are likely to hit Plymouth disproportionately.
The worst of the Government cuts are still to come.
Asked where the axe could fall, Cllr Lowry said: "It's too early to say what cuts will be made. The first thing we have done is to order a complete review."
He said the full impact of the Government's austerity measures had yet to be felt.
"For every £1 of proposed cuts, only 12p has been delivered so far," said Cllr Lowry.
Changes in Government legislation would add pressure to the council's budget and services, which are facing a 28per cent cut over four years.
Reform of business rates could also have a massive impact. At present all business rates are paid to the Government, which redistributes the money. In future each area would retain its own business rates income, which would hit cities like Plymouth with fewer businesses.
"If the Government presses ahead with that legislation, the city will have no choice but to cut frontline services."
And he said that unless Government cash came with some of the new legislation, more council jobs could be at risk.
"Plymouth has suffered disproportionately more than any other council in Southern England. You have to venture into the North of England to see cuts on the same scale."
He insisted that city libraries were safe but the Labour group would be looking at ways to make them more profitable, which could mean using them as community hubs.
He criticised his Tory predecessor, Cllr Ian Bowyer, for "frittering away" the £19million from the sale of Citybus.
Cllr Lowry said he was handed a poisoned chalice by the outgoing Conservative administration. One of their last acts was to accept a one-off Government grant to freeze the 2012/13 council tax.
"That will make it more difficult to keep council tax down next year," Cllr Lowry said.
But he ruled out big council tax increases.
He said: "Absolutely not. At a time when the Government has sent the economy into a double-dip recession it would be inappropriate to make a disproportionate council tax rise."
And he said the city had to "offer Whitehall and ministers solutions, not problems".
"We must ensure that if the Government does come to its senses and introduces a 'Plan B' for growth, Plymouth is well placed to be at the front of the queue.
"We are not going to get a sugar daddy to help us. We need to help ourselves – and that means all citizens of Plymouth."
Cllr Bowyer denied that he had "frittered away" the proceeds of the Citybus sale.
He said much of it had been used in the "Spend to Save" programme, which included cutting the number of council office buildings from nine to three.
"Mr Lowry is now enjoying revenue savings of £1.5million a year because of that."
The full council also approved using £1.6million of Citybus cash to buy back Home Park.
Mr Bowyer said it made sense to use the money rather than invest it because it was earning only 1per cent interest while the cost of borrowing was 4per cent.
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