HUNTINGDONSHIRE councillors are expected to agree a freeze in the district’s Council Tax precept this evening (Wednesday), as well as agreeing spending cuts that will result in 125 job losses.

HUNTINGDONSHIRE councillors are expected to agree a freeze in the district’s Council Tax precept this evening (Wednesday), as well as agreeing spending cuts that will result in 125 job losses.

HDC’s bid to save nearly £10million over the four years from April, includes £6.5m already identified.

There will almost certainly be more job losses on top of the 125 already identified for next year, as the council scales back some activities and withdraws from others.

In percentage terms, one of the hardest-hit is the voluntary sector where current contributions of £375,000 will drop sharply to just £75,000, including a complete end to support for town centre partnerships.

This will be vigorously opposed by the Liberal Democrats, although the opposition will not be proposing a full alternative budget this year. The voluntary sector cuts are “a key thing that’s causing an enormous amount of anger,” Lib Dem Councillor Mike Baker told The Hunts Post.

The catalogue of cuts and charge increases also includes a possible end to CCTV town centre coverage unless someone else pays – the council has managed to reduce the cost of a core service to £300,000 a year –a doubling of car parking revenues over five years, companies starting to pay realistic costs for planning advice before they submit applications, support for social housing abandoned, slower responses across the piece, and a general diminution of services outside key areas.

Charges will increase at leisure centres, opening hours will be cut, bar management could be privatised to stem losses, and managers’ focus will shift to provision of profitable activities.

The council says it remains committed to some core priorities – waste collection and recycling, support for vulnerable people, support for healthy lifestyles, strategic planning and growth, and statutory functions including licensing, elections and regulation.

The freeze in precept will be offset by an additional contribution – one senior district councillor calls it a bribe – from Whitehall that is equivalent to having raised the tax by 2.5 per cent (rather less than inflation).

It means the benchmark Band D precept will remain at £124 a year, which rises to £200 a year when the average parish council levy is included. Parish precepts vary from zero in areas without a parish council to £115 in Bluntisham where, although the amount raised has not increased for several years, the community is paying for its village hall.

Other three-figure Band D precepts will be levied in Huntingdon, St Ives and Holywell-cum-Needingworth.

On top of these sums, the bulk of Council Tax bills pay for Cambridgeshire County Council (which has agreed in principle to a conditional five-year freeze) and for the police and fire services.

The 30 per cent reduction in Government grant over the four-year period will be partly offset next year by £830,000 from the new ‘new homes bonus’ – a reward for continued house-building in the district – even if the figure is more than £100,000 less than HDC had been led to believe it should expect.