Cheltenham Borough Council agrees 2013/14 budget despite Conservative opposition
BOROUGH council bosses have agreed Cheltenham's next budget.
The budget for 2013/14 was passed by 24 votes to 12 at the Municipal Offices today, with the Conservative group voting in unison against the financial plans.
The budget sets out £1.2million of savings but council tax and parking charges will be frozen.
The authority has had to deal with a 7.4 per cent reduction in its hand out from central government which equates to a cut in real cash terms of £406,000.
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However, while the settlement from Westminster was slightly better than expected for the next financial year, there is a sting in the tail for the 12 months that follow.
In 2014/15 the council will lose a further 12.7 per cent of its funding.
It means that between 2010 and 2014 Cheltenham Borough Council will have lost 40 per cent of its funding from government.
The new budget outlines a number of proposals due to be implemented in 2013/14, some of which are designed to save money and others to try and make do with less.
They include plans to outsource the box office for Town Hall and increased sharing of services with partner authorities.
Also, the council will spend £90,000 on progressing the housing strategy Cheltenham is forming with its partners in Gloucester and Tewkesbury.
Councillor John Rawson, cabinet member for finance who presented the budget at a meeting of the full council, also announced plans to invest £1million to maintain Cheltenham's 'crown jewels'.
The money will be spent on preserving and upgrading buildings like Town Hall, the Art Gallery and Museum and Leisure@.
The council will also spend cash improving its ICT, buying play equipment and introducing more CCTV to make car parks 'safer'.
Mr Rawson stressed the budget was not a 'one year fix' but a 'long term strategy' for dealing with cuts in funding.
He said: "There will be plenty of people in the town who don't understand why everything can't be the same as it was twenty years ago.
"But we should have the courage to take the flak, to explain why change is needed, and to persuade people it is right.
"Above all, we have to be resolute in doing what we know must be done to secure the future of Cheltenham."
However, leader of the Conservative group, Councillor Rob Garnham, was unconvinced by the proposals.
He said the budget was full of 'lots of what ifs' and lots of 'it will be alright on the night'.
"I get the impression the ruling group is saying 'phew, we just made it' but is actually just stacking up problems for the future," he said.
"There is a lot of uncertainty and risk in what you are trying to do."
The Conservatives did not present an alternative budget and did not propose any amendments.
The People Against Bureaucracy group did not submit a statement or propose any amendments.