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'Armageddon avoided' despite £3.5m cut in Gloucester City Council budget

By citizenmike  |  Posted: February 27, 2014

Council leader Paul James led £3.5m budget cuts

Comments (11)

‘Armageddon’ in Gloucester has been avoided despite cuts of £3.5million pushed through by city councillors tonight.

The cuts were made at the annual budget meeting of Gloucester City Council.

Councillor Paul James, leader of the city council, said: “The doom-mongers who prophesied a few years ago that the Guildhall and the leisure centre would close, that the standards of service would slip and there would be Armageddon have been proved wrong. Those who repeat those claims this year will be proved wrong.”

Savage cuts to grants for the voluntary sector and Aspire, the organisation which runs GL1 and Oxstalls Tennis Centre, have been scaled back but there was still widespread concern that even the new levels of cuts would leave people redundant and vital services under threat of closure.

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The main cuts include:

- £100,000 to voluntary sector grants

- £50,000 cut for markets service

- £150,000 cut to the Guildhall

- £300,000 cut to Aspire, who run GL1 and Oxstalls

Despite this, Mr James painted a positive outlook but admitted the job was ‘not yet done’.

He said: “This is the first time for quite a number of years when I have been able to present a budget against the backdrop of an improving economy, with the recovery now starting to take hold and confidence returning.

“There is much more to do in our city and we can look forward to the year ahead with confidence.”

Over the next year, the city council’s priorities will be:

- Progressing the King’s Quarter scheme, including funding bids for a new bus station

- Implementing projects paid for using a £2million City Centre Investment Fund, including the cladding of ugly buildings, improving car parks and transforming the City Museum

- Supporting another ‘great year of events’ with the return of The Crucible to the Cathedral

- A new £1,000 fund for each councillor to spend in their own wards

The council has already saved £7.5million over the past four years but there will be cuts of £1.83million this year, £1.5million in 2015 and further savings in 2016.

Councillor Fred Wood, cabinet member for resources, said: “We will not shy away from taking difficult decisions. We are facing the toughest financial outlook for several decades.”

But there was some good news for taxpayers - council tax will be frozen once again.

Councillor Kate Haigh, leader of the Labour group, attacked the freeze saying the administration had ‘chosen to ignore’ 67 per cent of people who said they would support a council tax rise as part of a consultation exercise. Her group abstained on a vote to freeze council tax.

The Labour group also proposed:

- Reducing the level of cuts to Aspire and voluntary groups

- Relocating the tourist information centre into the City Museum, saving £50,000 per year

- Scrapping charges for the museums to get more people through the doors

- Reducing budget cuts at Gloucester Guildhall

All the proposals were rejected by Conservative councillors, while Liberal Democrats councillors abstained in a vote.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, supported the council tax freeze and also proposed:

- Spending £100,000 on fitting out an empty retail unit as new public toilets

- Spend £10,000 on a study into preparing an application for UNESCO World Heritage Status for Gloucester Cathedral

- Exploring the introduction of a ‘local levy’ on out-of-town businesses to support the city centre

All the Liberal Democrat amendments were backed by the Conservative administration leading to Labour councillor Nick Durrant’s accusations of a ‘nasty, shabby little deal’ between the two parties. Mr Hilton admitted he had met his opposite number Mr James in private to agree on his amendments. Mr Hilton then led his group in their abstentions against every Labour amendment.

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  • Tuffley_Echo  |  March 01 2014, 5:52PM

    So the Conservatives do a deal with Lib Dem. The Lib Dem then sit on their hands. Not what you were voted in for. I hope Gloucester people remember this at the ballot box.

  • uk_socrates  |  March 01 2014, 4:43PM

    @Kay_Powell LOL.

  • uk_socrates  |  February 28 2014, 8:09PM

    To those that rated my last post negatively. ARGUE YOUR CASE!. This is an open forum.

  • zalapompadoo  |  February 28 2014, 6:55PM

    Apothegm_ of course higher than last year for doing nothing

  • uk_socrates  |  February 28 2014, 1:37PM

    @socialista The £50billion debt interest per a year is very real!, expanding the public sector is not the solution! We don't need any more non-jobs in public sector and charity organisations. Google NHS jobs, and look at the insane amount of pointless non-jobs they advertise at £40k plus. We have a lack of doctors who want to work nights at a+e. Some are now on £1500 PER A SHIFT!!. How is this sustainable? Corporate Tax Avoidance is a big issue, but its needs to be addressed globally. Also scrapping the nukes doesn't seem the wisest of ideas. Although very expensive, they do provide a degree of security. We never know what tomorrow brings. Only today Russia seems to of invaded another nation. (Complicated as most the people there class themselves as Russian) but still. We live in an unpredictable world. I was against the war in Afghanistan tho, that was a total waste of money and people.

  • Apothegm_  |  February 28 2014, 11:15AM

    Is not the word "Armageddon" a gross over-exaggeration when applied to budget cuts? Or does Paul James mean "Ah'm -a-gettin'-my-salary-still"?

  • The_Selector  |  February 28 2014, 10:38AM

    agaga, see p.326 of this document: http://tinyurl.com/pc85exc The answer is £22,313 (£5,250 basic councillor's allowance + £17,063 leader's allowance). This is not a full-time position - it probably equates to 2-3 days per week. On top of that, he will have a regular job (I believe he is a lettings agent for Naylor Powell, or at least he was).

    |   -17
  • The_Selector  |  February 28 2014, 10:12AM

    If only, Jemmy Wood, if only. The reality is that most people don't vote, and the majority of those that do, vote the same way every time, regardless of what's happened between elections. This is why very little really changes.

    |   -17
  • socialista  |  February 28 2014, 9:58AM

    The doom-mongers who predicted food bank use in Gloucester would double have been proved right! Tax Big Business like we used to and we could easily afford a comprehensive welfare state. The man David Cameron put in charge of making cuts in 2010 was Sir Philip Green - the UK`s biggest tax-dodger - a very clear sign of the politics behind the bogus claim that "we have to have cuts"! The PCS union has produced an excellent anti-austerity booklet entitled "There is an alternative: The case against cuts in public spending" which debunks the political scaremongering about the deficit and how to deal with it. http://tinyurl.com/387yesx Once you realise you`ve conned by all the 3 main parties (who all want to make massive cuts to our welfare state) you might want to get involved with your local anti-cuts group: http://tinyurl.com/b84y5m8

  • agaga  |  February 28 2014, 8:19AM

    how much does Paul James earn?