COUNCIL tax increases for the lowest earners, bus subsidy reductions and bin collection reviews are being considered by Herefordshire Council in a bid to save £15 million.
Residents are being asked for their views on a raft of money-saving proposals ahead of a decision on the best way to cut costs in the next financial year. The consultation will run until December 20 with the budget for 2014/15 expected to be set on February 7 next year.
As part of the cost-cutting measures, which will see the council need to make a further £18 million worth of savings over the following two years, an alternative weekly collection of waste could be introduced, while funding for libraries and museums could be reduced and changes may be made to the council tax reduction scheme.
This would see those on low incomes who currently pay eight per cent of their bill – around 5,000 residents – paying 16 per cent from April 2014, rising to 30 per cent over the next three years. The council would make an extra £700,000 if the plans, which do not affect pensioners, are approved.
Social care changes would see £2.5 million saved on children’s wellbeing, with ideas including increasing the amount of services provided by the voluntary and community sectors, offering services such as children’s centres and short breaks for children with disabilities to outside organisations and a review of how buildings across the county are used.
A further £5.5 million would be saved from adult wellbeing and housing by stopping funding for people not eligible for adult social care, charging those who are able to pay for services, limiting the amount of time support is available to help people regain their independence and increasing the use of personal budgets.
Although the council has pledged to continue investing in infrastructure, £300,000 is proposed to be saved by reducing funding to organisations including Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, Citizens Advice Bureau and Visit Herefordshire.
Subsidies for bus services including school transport would be reviewed and increasing reliance would be placed on commercial services and community-based transport schemes.
Council leader Tony Johnson said: “Let me be absolutely clear we no longer have the income to pay for all the services traditionally provided by the council. We must therefore prioritise, and this consultation will guide our decisions in that process.
“This is a not an easy budget and it will impact on everyone in Herefordshire. The key purpose of this consultation is to help us better understand the impact of what we propose.
“As a result of our assessment of the impact we will look at how we can change the budget to protect the most vulnerable and to ensure we apply services as fairly as possible.”
Visit www.herefordshire.gov.uk/budget2014 to view the consultation – responses can be made online or paper copies are available on request.