No cut to council tax support as Peterborough City Council dip into contingency fund

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Some of the poorest people in Peterborough will not lose any more of their council tax support after the city council agreed to not reduce funding.

The decision not to reduce the support will cost £500,000 which the council will take from its £1 million Risk Management Contingency Fund.

The decision was agreed by the council’s Conservative-run cabinet on Monda (19 January) following a consultation.

Council tax support was cut by 30 per cent in the 2013/14 budget after a government reduction of £2.3 million.

However, the government has reduced the funding it gives to the council to provide the scheme by around a further £1 million in 2015/16.

The consultation looked at whether the cut should be extended to 35 or 40 per cent or remain at 30 per cent.

An extension to 35 per cent would have saved the council £250,000. That figure would have risen to £500,000 should it have gone up to 40 per cent.

The council had expected to save money from council tax support in its budget proposals.

The council is currently tackling a £25.3 million budget deficit.

The decision to keep council tax support at its current level will be voted on by full council.

Announcing the freeze, Councillor David Seaton, cabinet member for resources, said: “I’m very aware of the impact this can have on households.”

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, cabinet member for adult social care, said the orginal 30 per cent cut had been forced on the council by the government.

He added: “I’m in principle against this scheme. I think it is a particularly cruel and mean scheme which hits the most vulnerable in our society.

“I would like for us to pay for it all but we simply do not have the money.”

The cabinet also gave strong backing to new proposals for Peterborough’s libraries.

The plans would see the city’s 10 libraries stay open for 125 hours more than they are now with residents able to use self-service technology.

However, staffing hours would reduce from 261 to 149.

The consultation on the new service, which would see all libraries remain open, runs from Friday January 23 to Sunday March 22.

The consultation on libraries follows one undertaken last year which drew 5,110 responses and helped shape the current proposals.

The proposals were introduced to the cabinet by Councillor Lucia Serluca, cabinet member for city centre management, culture and tourism, and Lisa Roberts, client manager for culture and leisure at the council.

Cllr Serluca said she had seen the new self-service technology, called Open +, used in Leeds.

She added: “It works really well. Even the staff who worked there were encouraged and looking to extend it to other libraries.”

Ms Roberts told the cabinet that the technology which would be introduced was an extension to what is being used at Hampton Library.

She said: “We listened to people in the first consultation who said books were overwhelmingly the most important thing.

“We would not be in Open + mode all day. It would be the best of both worlds.”

Following words of encouragement from many cabinet members, who agreed that the second consultation should go forward, Cllr Serluca added: “In the last two years 375 local libraries have shut. The message to other authorities is come and speak to us.”

The cabinet also agreed to the second phase of budget proposals for 2015/16 which would save over £8 million from it’s overall £25.3 million deficit.

The first set of proposals, which accounted for the remainder of the deficit, were agreed by the council in December last year.

The proposals can now be consulted on by the public on the council’s website.

Full council will consider the proposals on March 4.

Also agreed by the cabinet is to look into the erection of barriers at Northminster multi-storey car park to stop suicides.

The barriers would cost up to £250,000.

Approval was also given to a unique partnership with energy firm OVO which the council says will see people in the city have access to possibly the lowest energy tariffs in the country.

The tariffs, which would be fixed-term, will be available from April and only for people in Peterborough.

A partnership was also agreed between the council and AVIC, a state-owned company in China.

The council hopes the partnership will lead to more jobs in the city.

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