£70 million of cuts and council tax increase approved by county council

County Hall, Matlock.
County Hall, Matlock.

Plans to increase council tax by 3.99 per cent and cut almost £70 million from the budget over the next two years have been agreed by Derbyshire County Council.

The move was approved at a full meeting of the council yesterday (Wednesday) when members also agreed to consult with the public on proposals to:

• Close up to 32 children’s centres

• Reduce funding for community transport services from July 2016. The council will use its reserves for Dial-a-Bus and Active Travel in the short term while proposals for a new ‘demand responsive’ transport service are consulted on and considered

• Cut the money available for home to school transport for pupils over 16 with learning difficulties or disabilities, under-fives and some eight to 11 year olds

• Restructure staffing in the countryside service and look at alternative ways of running Hayfield and Tapton Lock Visitors Centres

• Reduce the money available for Aiming High short breaks for disabled children and young people with a further proposal to consult on cutting all funding for these breaks from October 2016.

At the meeting, councillors voted to set the authority’s annual budget for the year ahead at £483 million and generate £10.6 million to help deal with the shortfall by asking residents to pay an extra 3.99 per cent in council tax.

The increase includes an extra two per cent specifically to help fund adult care services in line with guidance from central government.

The extra two per cent will raise just over £5 million a year in Derbyshire - but will still not be enough to prevent cuts to adult care services which are facing a £13m cut this year.

Cllr Anne Western, leader of the county council, said: “We’d prefer not to raise council tax but we feel we have had no choice because the funding we get from government is being rapidly cut and the government has made it clear that raising council tax is what it expects of all councils.

“We believe that the government is still treating Derbyshire unfairly when you compare what we get to many southern counties. The government has just announced that Derbyshire is to get an additional £1m in 2016/17, while Surrey will get £12m more, Hampshire £10m more and Hertfordshire £8m more.

The increase will mean an extra £34.77 a year - or 67p a week - for a Band B property.

Measures the council has put in place to help deal with the cuts include:

• Selling off land and buildings, reducing back office costs and significantly cutting the number of senior managers.

• Looking for new, cheaper and more innovative ways of doing things

• Looking at new ways of generating income by setting up a publicly-owned development company to keep investment money in Derbyshire, and solar farms to create and sell its own electricity

• Negotiating a devolution deal with government to help all councils in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire work with other local councils to do things better and faster together.

For full details on the meeting and the cuts, see here.