£20m to be saved - but no facilities will be lost


A SENIOR politician in charge of making £20m of budget savings at South Tyneside Council believes the authority can emerge “leaner but stronger”.

Coun Ed Malcolm also gave assurances that no borough community facility would be axed – and that frontline services would be protected over the next year.

Savings are to be achieved through a series of service reviews across all departments and by developing “new and more efficient” working.

No area is too small or too large for the savings review – from the closure of mobile toilets to sending less waste to expensive landfill sites.

Coun Malcolm, who was putting a series of recommendations before the council’s decision-making cabinet today, admitted that more council workers would need to go.

It comes as the axe is set to fall on a number of senior management posts.

But Coun Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, says the authority is committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies while pushing ahead with a series of regeneration projects.

Meanwhile, the cabinet was being asked to endorse a freeze in council tax for the next year, and an average £5.80 increase in rents.

Coun Malcolm also dismissed the notion that the council is “cash-strapped”, saying: “I want to put that to bed once and for all.

“We are still a multi-million-pound organisation.

“Yes, there is a shortage of cash and these are challenging times, but we will still be spending £150m over the next two years.”

He highlighted investment in several projects, including a major new solar-efficient housing development in Reed Street, South Shields, and the Green Incubator office development in Laygate, a new community school and swimming pool in Jarrow and the “imminent” redevelopment of Hebburn Town Centre.

Coun Malcolm said: “This is a budget for challenging times, but we have no plans to close children’s centres, no plans to close leisure centres, community centres, youth clubs or schools.”

Although closures may not be on the agenda, the public will see some changes, including reduced opening hours at libraries and increased charges for pest control.

The council is also pushing on with the creation of ‘community hubs’, where several council and health services are housed under one roof.

Coun Malcolm added: “This is a budget for changing times, but we will protect frontline services and ensure no facilities are taken away from the public.

“We will continue to work with our partners, with other councils and with the voluntary sector.”

Twitter: @shieldsGazPaul