BOSSES at South Tyneside Council are bracing themselves for another tough year as they prepare to make £12m in budget savings.
The authority is expected to shed around 200 jobs over the next 12 months as it tries to cope with a £4.5m shortfall in Government funding – and a £7.5m rise in the cost of services, particularly to OAPs and children.
It will, however, stick to its policy of no compulsary redundancies.
The budget challenge follows £75m of savings the council has made over the last three years.
That process has already seen 1,200 council jobs shed.
Next week, the council’s decision-making cabinet will be asked to endorse the authority’s budget for 2013/14. Among the proposals is a freeze on council tax, a switch to fortnightly waste collection – to save £200,000 – and continued efficiency savings across all areas of council spending.
Despite the gloomy outlook, Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, pledged again to protect frontline services.
The council is also committed to continue its policy of voluntary redundancies over the next 12 months.
Coun Malcolm also highlighted the £250m of capital investment in the borough’s regeneration, which is planned over the next five years.
But he expressed deep concern at the impact which welfare reform legislation would have on borough residents from April.
He said: “Another reduction in Government funding has left us facing a funding gap of at least £12m next year, but the budget I will be proposing to cabinet protects frontline services and sets out a further £250m of capital investment over the next five years.
“The duty we have to our residents – especially the elderly, the vulnerable and the young – has always been at the forefront of our planning, and always will be.
“We know that local people are finding it tough in this difficult financial climate, so we are proposing to freeze the element of the council tax that helps pay for services provided by the council.”
The budget proposals have been drawn up following consultation with residents, businesses, elected members, trade unions and voluntary, community and other groups.
Coun Malcolm said: “We are not closing services down, but finding new and more efficient models of delivery.”
Cabinet members will discuss the budget proposals at a special meeting on Wednesday, before making recommendations to the full council, which meets on Thursday, February 28, to set the authority’s 2013/14 budget.