Only four people show up for budget meeting

Victorious Festival on Southsea Common

‘Please don’t drive to Victorious’

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JUST four residents turned up to press a council leader and the director of finances about proposed savings, cuts and a rise in council tax.

Portsmouth City Council held a public meeting in its council chambers at the Guildhall last night.

But despite the low turnout, the council’s finances were explained in detail – including the authority’s need to make £24m savings over the next three years.

Chris Ward, director of finances and information services, said the council needs to save £9m in 2017/18, £8m in 2018/19 and £7m in 2019/20. He said one of the ways the council is proposing to generate £8.4m was to raise council tax by the maximum allowed without a referendum – four per cent.

He said that rising costs to social and care services from an ageing population and other unavoidable costs – a rise in inflation, and a £68m reduction in funding from central government since 2011/12 – had led the authority to be looking at its finances once again.

He said: ‘If you add all of those things together then you get a £24m deficit.’

Council leader Donna Jones said there were many ways in which the council was already working to mitigate some of the impact.

She said they were working to reduce the extent to which people need council services, such as by working with the voluntary sector.

Cllr Jones did say there would inevitably be some cuts to services, but said that services had been prioritised so important areas such as education would be hit least.

She said the authority had been generating income by investing in property, and exploring other ways of making money such as the sponsorship of the Spinnaker Tower and the Sails of the South.

Cllr Jones said: ‘If you look at the council like a business providing services to the public, then the opportunities we have are extraordinary and we need to maximise them.’

Southsea resident James Gunston, 57, put forward some of his own ideas, which Cllr Jones said she would explore such as building a business hub in Cosham.

He said: ‘You never know what weighting’s been given to my ideas, but at least I’ve had the chance to say them.’

John Cass, from Stamshaw and Tipner Neighbourhood Forum, was in attendance.

He said: ‘The thing that all this means is a loss of jobs, greatly cut-down services and a hike in taxes. I always try and come along to these things to do battle.’