HOUSEHOLDS could see a change in the day their bins are emptied to help save between £100,000 and £250,000 a year of Council Tax money. Huntingdonshire District Council did not change collection days when it moved to wheelie-bins and fortnightly collectio
HOUSEHOLDS could see a change in the day their bins are emptied to help save between £100,000 and £250,000 a year of Council Tax money.
Huntingdonshire District Council did not change collection days when it moved to wheelie-bins and fortnightly collections to make the transition simpler for residents.
But a wholesale reassessment of the system could provide significant cost reductions, if the council's cabinet agrees tomorrow (Thursday) to a package of savings totalling £580,000 in the current year. The measures would generate savings of up to £1.7million by 2008/09.
Although it is too late to reschedule refuse and recycling arrangements in 2006/07, savings up to £200,000 could be delivered next year.
The range of saving is because HDC has not yet identified the most efficient patterns of collection and does not yet know whether the change would reduce the fleet of "refuse freighters", as bin lorries are now known, and their crews by one or two.
At a net cost of £4.5million, it is HDC's single most expensive service available to nearly all the 67,000-plus households in the district.
Providing five leisure centres costs more than that, but they also generate income that covers a significant proportion of the costs.
That proportion could rise if the cabinet also agrees to increase charges for activities. There is also the possibility of replacing the St Ivo rifle-shooting and archery range and other measures, the leisure budget could produce total full-year savings of £180,000.
The council is required to find new efficiency savings totalling £574,000 this year to add to around £450,000 delivered last year on a net revenue budget of £18.3million.
The council's gross budget of £60million includes nearly £12million in fees and charges, such as for planning applications, and £24million from central government to compensate for housing benefit and Council Tax benefit payments. HDC's Council Tax contributes just £6million.
Because of the continued threat of capping, HDC has had to assume that neither Council Tax nor its net spending will be allowed to rise by more than five per cent in any year.
In this respect HDC has become the victim of its previous parsimony. In the past it used capital reserves, principally from the £80million sale of its housing stock to Luminus Homes (Huntingdonshire Housing Partnership) six years ago, to keep down Council Tax increases.
Now that the reserves are dwindling, along with the £3million-a-year interest they earn, the council wanted to start increasing tax by £12 a year each year on a Band D property.
It got away with it two years ago, when the increase represented more than 15 per cent. Last year, when the same cash increase was 12 per cent, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott imposed a five per cent cap.
Now, at £104.69, compared with a district council average in England of £145, its rate is in the lowest eight per cent of the 238 authorities - and likely to remain there as long as the capping threat remains.