CUTS and increased charges are planned for many Wiltshire Council services which could see funding slashed for maintaining clean streets, elderly friendship groups and the tourist information website Visit Wiltshire.
The new draft budget drawn up by the council includes savings on services totalling over £26m along with a 5% rise in tax raised by the council. In addition to cutting back on services, the council is also raising charges.
There is to be a 7% increase in social housing rents, except for rents currently over the formula rent which will be capped at formula rent as per national guidance. The council also plans to charge for non-household waste going into recycling centres.
Liberal Democrat leader Ian Thorn has criticised the cuts saying, “One of the things that are really striking is the reduction in terms of the street scene provision. This is a £300,000 cut that will mean a reduction in street-cleaning, play area maintenance, grounds maintenance and grass cutting.
“Of course, what we also get this year is the other 50% cut to the friendship groups and the lunch clubs which we campaigned against last year and we may well campaign against this year.
“Lunch clubs are for elderly people. Sometimes it’s their one opportunity to get together during the week, and friendship groups are groups for people with learning disabilities; these are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. 50% was taken last year and another 50% goes this year.
“The funding for Visit Wiltshire might also be stopped to save £150k. It seems remarkable to take away investment from an organisation charged with getting people to come and spend money in the county.”
Speaking about the cuts Wiltshire Council leader Richard Clewer said, “Friendship clubs is a decision from last year. It’s not a decision I want to revisit.
“Stopping funding for Visit Wiltshire is planned but at the moment we fund it, and Swindon don’t. We are putting all our focus on each town having its own identity and attracting people into them. Visit Wiltshire have got their own funding from other sources.
“We are going to want to charge people who aren’t in Wiltshire for using our recycling centres and charging for non-household waste items just brings us in line with the rest of the country.
“We are keeping all our leisure centres and libraries open and funding to museums is not being cut. The major element of savings on street scene is encouraging biodiversity by reducing grass cutting.”