A PUBLIC consultation began this week into how Huntingdonshire could save £5million on district council services over the next three years.

A PUBLIC consultation began this week into how Huntingdonshire could save £5million on district council services over the next three years.

HDC is expecting Whitehall contributions to be slashed following the comprehensive review of spending currently being undertaken by the Treasury.

Among the options HDC is considering is a 36 per cent hike in the Council Tax precept in two years' time, cutting staff numbers at Pathfinder House, freezing pay, sharing support functions with other parts of the public sector, 're-shaping' services, increasing the cost of activities at its leisure centres and putting up charges for licensing, planning and car parking.

In the meantime, it is asking for residents to say what mix of service cuts and price increases would be acceptable in HDC's own austerity budget.

Councillor Ian Bates, leader of the council, said on Monday: "We have identified that we need to find £5million over the next three years either in savings or by generating more income. It is really important to us that people take the opportunity to send us their views."

HDC says a series of face-to-face interviews will be carried out with residents throughout the district over the next few weeks, while all residents will have the opportunity to take part in a web-based consultation.

A spokesman said: "Twenty-two topics have been identified, each representing one or more of the services we provide where savings can be made by reducing the level of service currently received.

"A grid shows the current level of service and options that diminish to a level where they are either stopped or reduced substantially. Participants then click on the level of service they are willing to receive for each topic and are awarded points. The points reflect the cost of delivering the selected levels of service and show the impact on Council Tax levels in order to deliver the chosen level of service."

HDC's savings plan could include one in 12 jobs going - probably without compulsory redundancies - while other cash-saving or money-raising measures being considered include raising the Council Tax precept to raise £2.6million.

But Council Tax is likely to be frozen in the first and possible also the second year of the three-year period, so the 36 per cent hike could all come in 2013/14.

Less than 10 per cent of the council's £80m budget this year comes from Council Tax. After income from planning and licensing fees, leisure centres and car parking charges, HDC is having to find £25m from central and local taxpayers.

This year, in addition to the Government's £13m contribution, Council Tax will account for £7.24m, and £4.7m will come from reserves - primarily what is left of the proceeds of the sale of the council housing stock to social landlord Luminus in 2000.

Those reserves, of which there will be around £11m left by the end of next March, are likely to be raided again next year to help meet the funding gap.

INFORMATION: The consultation closes on Friday, August 27. The consultation grid can be accessed at www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/budgetconsultation or residents can send an e-mail to Budgetconsultation@huntsdc.gov.uk. A simplified version of the consultation is available in HDC's offices in Huntingdon, St Neots, St Ives, Ramsey and Yaxley, the council's leisure centres, and at the libraries in Huntingdon, St Ives, St Neots and Ramsey.