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Gloucestershire County Council: 14/15 budget a mix of worthy sweeteners and better-than-expected cuts

By jrmaidment  |  Posted: January 29, 2014

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A fighting fund worth £650,000 to help reunite children in care with their families is just one of a handful of worthy one-off projects proposed by Shire Hall chiefs after they received an unexpected council tax windfall.

Gloucestershire County Council is in the final throes of thrashing out its budget for 2014/15 and its job was made easier after it pocketed £4.2 million more than it was anticipating in tax.

A large chunk of that cash will be spent on a project to help children in care reunite with their parents and on work to prevent young people being taken into care in the first place.

Meanwhile, £500,000 will be spent to help progress the A417 Loop plans.

The money represents a drop in the ocean when it comes to the £250million needed to make a dual carriageway bypass a reality.

But the cash will likely act as an important indicator to the Government that the county is serious about its campaign to get the work done.

Mark Owen, the chair of the Gloucestershire and West of England Region of the Federation of Small Businesses which has pledged its support to the A417 campaign, said: “It is great to see Gloucestershire County Council putting its money where its mouth is.”

The council is also looking to commit the same figure to creating a new fund to boost the county’s flood resilience.

The money will be used to provide match funding on schemes with partner organisations like the Environment Agency.

Shire Hall also wants to invest £235,000 on improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

National Star College principal Kathryn Rudd said there is a great need for support to help Gloucestershire people with disabilities gain employment.

The specialist college for people with physical and learning disabilities has recently expanded its successful "Skills for Work” learning programme.

"The key to long-term employment is about building relationships with employers, understanding their business needs and then identifying roles which suit the person and the business,” she said.

"We would welcome working in partnership with Gloucestershire County Council to help more people with disabilities break into the workplace."

The final budget set out by the council’s ruling Conservatives represents a much brighter version to the initial draft which was published in November.

At that point the council was forecasting that the current year’s budget of £431 million would shrink to £423 million next year.

But thanks to the authority receiving more income tax from its districts than expected, the final budget has now been set at £428 million, a reduction of less than one per cent on 2013/14.

And while the Tories are looking to freeze council tax for the fourth year in a row, it is not all good news with adult care services, which pays for the care of the elderly in the county, bracing itself for a cut of almost £3.5 million.

The council is hoping to save money through a shake-up of how it commissions care for the elderly with plans including reducing the amount it is willing to pay in care home fees.

More than 1,000 people commented on the council’s budget during a consultation period and Councillor Ray Theodoulou, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said their thoughts have influenced the authority’s spending plans.

“As the district councils’ income is more than they originally estimated, we’ve been able to use this one-off extra money to focus on some of the things that people told us were important.”

Assuming Shire Hall’s Tory cabinet agrees to the final budget proposals at its meeting on February 5, full council will then be asked to ratify the budget on February 26.

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  • HostintheAir  |  January 31 2014, 3:59PM

    worthy one-off projects...this reporter shows such naiveity about the care system it's unreal...believe me if these kids didn't need to come into care they would not have. The quality of reporting on the Citizen in this respect is appalling