Services hang in the balance

St Helens Town Hall where councillors will vote on Wednesday night on one of the most controversial budgets presented to the chamber in decades

St Helens Town Hall where councillors will vote on Wednesday night on one of the most controversial budgets presented to the chamber in decades

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TOWN Hall chiefs are preparing to vote on the first budget since St Helens Council received a £28m funding cut from central Government.

Councillors will vote on the budget plan in the council chamber this evening (Wednesday, March 2) - in the knowledge that the authority has already been hit with a £12.8m loss in formula grant, £12.2m reduction in area based grant and a £3.1m loss in early intervention grant for 2011/12.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s meeting, deputy council leader Barrie Grunewald said: “This has been a tremendously difficult process to go through and tough choices have had to be made. We have seen a brutal attack on our finances from the Tory-led government who have tried to rip the heart out of our town.

“The Labour administration will continue to work as hard as possible to protect services as far as we can do in very difficult circumstances. To this end, as we move into the next financial year, we will be looking to greater targeting of resources towards areas which have the greatest impact and need.”

In an overall portfolio spend of £128.75m, the Labour-led council plans to spend £49.7m on Adult social care and health, £30.3m on children, young people and learning services and £20.3m on environmental protection.

They also propose to spend £9.4m on urban regeneration and housing, £7.7m on culture, communications and the town centre, £6m on corporate services and external affairs and £4.9m on neighbourhoods, safer communities and youth.

Council leader Marie Rimmer said: “I will be proposing a budget which includes a nil increase for Council Tax and a budget which helps the most vulnerable in our town, supports the local economy, maintains the valued services within the borough and offers help to improve the life chances of our young people.

“To support this we will be announcing additional investment in improving disabled access to local facilities, supporting local businesses through business support, support for new graduates and school leavers, investment for improved local car parking and support for our town centre economy.”

Coun Rimmer added: “These measures are aimed at limiting the impact of the CON-DEM Government cuts on local people and the local economy.

“I will always put the residents of St Helens first.”