Huntingdonshire District Council plans its budget for the ‘worst case scenario’

Huntingdonshire District Council

Huntingdonshire District Council - Credit: Archant

Deeper cuts to public services are being planned by Huntingdonshire District Council over the next five years.

Savings of about £12million are being considered up to 2020 as the authority plans for a “worst case scenario”.

The Facing the Future programme, a long list of savings and money-generating ideas, originally discussed behind-closed-doors, has seen all HDC departments scrutinise their finances.

Plans such as no longer giving drivers five minutes’ grace when parking and introducing charges for collecting all garden waste have been withdrawn but a huge number of the suggestions are still up for consideration.

HDC’s street cleaning service, which has already had £70,000 wiped off its budget for 2014/15, could be in line for further cuts.

Ideas being considered include removing day-time town centre cleaners; reducing road sweeping and using just one machine, rather than the current two; and scrapping the graffiti removal service.

Many of the 28-strong full-time street cleansing team are on short-term contracts, should cuts be agreed.

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Members of HDC’s Environmental Well-Being Overview and Scrutiny Panel have been appointed to a working party to assess the “public appetite” for the litter-related changes.

Operations manager, Beth Gordon, in a report for the panel, warned: “If the council wishes to maintain standards as they currently are, then future resourcing of the service will need to be considered, otherwise it is likely in future that standards will have to be cut.”

Other areas still being explored include ceasing the pest control service and introducing smaller bins for domestic waste. Possible changes to parking fees at peak times have been put on hold.

For One Leisure, suggestions such as disposing of the Sawtry and Ramsey centres have been ditched.

However, HDC could still start charging an annual fee for a One Leisure card. It is also continuing with its plan to axe 15 management posts and considering ideas such as increasing prices and a five per cent reduction in opening hours.

HDC executive leader Councillor Jason Ablewhite stressed the work was being done to prepare for the worst case scenario, such as the complete withdrawal of central government funding or scrapping of the new homes bonus, payouts rewarding councils for building new housing.

He said the ideas being discussed would be “brought down off the shelf” if necessary, but significant savings were being made through sharing services with other authorities and making the most of HDC-owned commerical assets, such as retail and industrial units.

He added: “We are going to keep driving efficiencies deep down into the organisation and reorganise in a way that’s going to safeguard as much [services] as we possibly can.”

Figures relating to Facing the Future are due to be published in February or March next year.