City to see £15 million of cuts as services, jobs and even flowers go

THING OF THE PAST? Hanging baskets like this could be consigned to history thanks to city council cuts.
THING OF THE PAST? Hanging baskets like this could be consigned to history thanks to city council cuts.

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MORE than 180 jobs will go and cash to charities, playgrounds, children’s services and schools will be slashed as Portsmouth City Council looks to make cuts of up to £15m.

Even hanging baskets will take a hit as the council aims to make up a funding shortfall by penny-pinching in a huge review which will see repercussions felt across the city.

Council tax will remain frozen for a second year running, but ratepayers could see new parking charges on busy city roads, the loss of uniform grants for poorer families, and a reduction in funding for community wardens and CCTV.

Leader of the council Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said a reduction in grant from central government had forced tough choices about what to continue funding.

Next year the main funding grants the council receives from central government will fall from £125m to £113.5.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson says that shortfall plus the need to account for inflation has resulted in the need to find £15m.

‘There are some very difficult cuts which we are having to make,’ he said.

‘But we have to live within our means, which isn’t going to be easy but it has to be done. We have tried to protect services which help the most vulnerable people in our society, so money is being put back in to minimise cuts to adult social care. And we are using some of the profits we received last year from port contracts to keep the overall reduction in our spending to £15m.’

The council will be putting aside £173,000 less for maintaining council properties, with only essential repairs now being carried out.

Community centres across the city will also start receiving less support, with £8,300 being cut from the funds given to centres in Buckland, Paulsgrove, Fratton and Southsea, and one job will go from each when people retire.

The proposed budget, which will go before councillors on Tuesday, isn’t all about cuts – Portsmouth residents who claim pensions or are under 16 will now be able to swim for free in the city’s swimming pools.

But the leader of the council’s Conservative opposition, Steve Wemyss, described it as ‘a savage attack on the city’s children’. He said: ‘We have repeatedly pointed out to the council areas where cuts could be made, but they have ignored our suggestions. They are cutting more than £5m from services which directly impact children, while spending millions propping up the company running the Pyramids Centre.

‘A cynic might say it’s because children can’t vote. We will not support a budget which makes such irresponsible decisions.’