Portsmouth councillors approve budget cuts of £17m

FEELING THE PINCH Cuts will be felt across the city.' 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (111872-624)
FEELING THE PINCH Cuts will be felt across the city.' 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (111872-624)
Havant MP Alan Mak with FatFace chief executive Anthony Thompson and infrastructure director Simon Ratcliffe

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BUDGET cuts described as ‘tough but fair’ have been approved by city councillors as they set their budget for next year.

It means council tax bills in the city will go up a total of two per cent from April.

Cuts include transferring six of the city’s adventure playgrounds to the voluntary sector, reducing maintenance at cemeteries, and moving lollipop patrol responsibility to schools.

A consultation is still on-going over plans to merge the city’s children’s centres – leaving nine out of 16.

Councillors met at Portsmouth Guildhall yesterday to debate the proposals at a full council meeting.

They also approved the authority’s capital grant scheme to pump nearly £13m into services and organisations.

Cosham’s high street will benefit from £200,000 of investment, the Kings Theatre will receive a £200,000 grant, and nearly £5m will be used to expand schools in Portsmouth.

Both the Portsmouth Labour and Conservative groups put forward amendments to the budget – but both were voted out.

The Labour group suggested demolishing the Pyramids Centre in Southsea to save just over £1m in an attempt to save more children’s centres from closure.

Their Conservative counterparts looked to put £150,000 extra into the Cosham high street scheme by reducing the local transport plan and stopping plans to light the route from the Square Tower to the Round Tower.

They also proposed freezing council tax.

City council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘This is a tough but fair budget.

‘This is a budget that looks at cutting costs but also makes difficult decisions in may service areas.’

Labour’s Cllr Jim Patey argued for abandoning the Pyramids, adding that not doing so would be ‘of detriment to the Lib-Dem group in the future’.

He described the proposals as ‘unpalatable and inedible’.

Cllr Luke Stubbs, of the Conservative group, called for referendum rules to come into place following the council’s two per cent council tax increase.

If the council had looked to exceed a two per cent rise, there would have had to be a referendum.