Council’s plan for £9m savings moves step closer

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SAVINGS of £9m have been rubber-stamped by councillors ahead of a debate next week.

Portsmouth city councillors yesterday agreed to send the budget proposal to a full council meeting for the final decision.

But the plan has caused some concern with the Lib Dem opposition as it includes cuts to sexual health services, alcohol and drug misuse work, trade unions, community centres as well as cultural bodies.

Tory council leader Donna Jones said the savings were necessary and praised the plan.

She said: ‘Our plan is to become a more entrepreneurial council and utilise the tools that we have available to us.

‘Out of the £9m of savings only £900,000 are actual cuts to front-line services.

‘We should be proud that we can put forward such a plan.

‘For example, putting our substance misuse service out to tender has improved the service at a cheaper cost than what we originally had.’

Included in the budget is a 3.99 per cent rise in council tax.

Councillors were told if they reduced this amount by one per cent, they would need to make an additional £650,000 of cuts.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Jim Fleming said: ‘It is a striking contrast from the austerity measures put forward three years ago. It just shows that those measures were easy things to do.

‘It has been left to us to make efficiencies rather than taking away services which people in the city rely upon.’

Cllr Jones said the council had made £86m of savings since 2010. She said the biggest challenge was centred around adult and children’s social care.

She said: ‘It is our biggest area, with our biggest potential and our biggest growing cost year on year.’

The plan will now go to the full council meeting on Tuesday at 2pm.

Opposition leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he was going to put forward an alternative budget.

He said: ‘There are some things in this budget which are good and there are some things that I’m very worried about.’

He said he was concerned about cuts to social care, cuts in help for vulnerable families, a withdrawal of £60,000 a year from Portsmouth Cultural Trust, which runs the Guildhall, changes in support for crisis and mediation centres, plus cuts to sea wall maintenance and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.