Campaigners fail to stop Portsmouth City Council slashing budget

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WARNINGS that public cuts to the tune of millions of pounds will drive residents into deeper poverty have been dismissed.

Portsmouth City Council agreed upon a programme to slash £13.1m from its budget next year at a meeting yesterday.

Union members outside Portsmouth Guildhall before a meeting of full council against proposed cuts in next year's budget''December 9, 2014

Union members outside Portsmouth Guildhall before a meeting of full council against proposed cuts in next year's budget''December 9, 2014

The move is being made due to cuts in government funding.

It means the termination of free public swimming for pensioners and teenagers, cuts to Dial-a-Ride and £5m savings in the adult social care service will now go ahead, as will a range of other cost-cutting measures.

Steve Bonner, vice-chairman of Portsmouth Pensioners’ Association, warned the cuts hit residents over 70 hard and would ‘lock them up in their homes’.

Karen Silman, who has had MS for 10 years, made a plea for the council to not drop Pete’s Airlink as the operator for Dial-a-Ride. Instead it was agreed a not-for-profit group would pick it up.

Union members staged a demo before the meeting.

Kelly Tomlinson, community co-ordinator for the Unite union, said: ‘A lot of people are already relying on food banks so further cuts to public services will drive people into poverty even more.’

Jon Woods, of Portsmouth Trades’ Council, warned employees were already being run ‘ragged’ in their jobs.

The Tory administration wants to freeze council tax for another year and a £500,000 pot of cash is being set aside for the voluntary sector to tap into.

The cost of keeping alive the city’s counselling service will be met by Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group and a dedicated city clean team will be formed.

But the Lib Dems believed the cuts were cruel.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem group leader, ‘This is a budget that no-one could be proud of. It is a budget to attack the most vulnerable in the city.’

The group suggested cutting senior management posts from six to three and bringing in staff parking charges, netting £190,200 a year, or trimming back on the middle management tier across services – including education and health.

It was suggested there be a 25 per cent cut in councillors’ special responsibility allowance, the removal of one of the cabinet members and the re-introduction of Southsea’s MB and MC parking zones.

But the ideas were thrown out by parties and branded unrealistic.

Cllr Donna Jones, Tory council leader, said: ‘It’s high risk. Children would end up having adverse health problems and we would end up with a dirty city.’

Row reignited over public spending at Pyramids Centre

LABOUR councillors suggested a hike in council tax to help raise cash for public services.

The city group put forward an alternative budget proposing an increase of 1.95 per cent next year, meaning £12.5m worth of savings could be made next year instead of £13.1m.

Councillor John Ferrett, Labour group leader, also criticised the former Lib Dem council for entering into an agreement to continue providing funds to The Pyramids Centre.

‘Since April 2011, while undergoing these cuts imposed by central government, taxpayers have wasted £6m on the Pyramids,’ Cllr Ferrett said.

‘This is no more than an obscene misuse of public and a sham.’

Lib Dem councillor Matthew Winnington said the proposals were ‘disgraceful’ and ‘cutting’ to hard-up residents.

Labour also called for a 20 per cent reduction in councillor allowances and the removal of two cabinet members.

But the amendments fell down as no-one aside from Labour voted for it.

While Ukip did not offer an alternative budget solution, the group criticised the government’s level of foreign spending.

Cllr Colin Galloway, Ukip group leader, said: ‘£55m a day to be a member of the Europe club hardly seems value for money.’