New Bills to Cost Council Thousands; Public's Satisfaction with Authorities Falling

Article excerpt

Byline: Emma Pinch

A Midland authority which was told to save more than pounds 250,000 as part of Government capping will spend a six-figure sum sending out revised bills to residents.

Herefordshire Council is to shave pounds 253,000 off its pounds 175.5 million annual spend, while Hereford and Worcester Fire Service is to get pounds 1.1 million less than it planned for.

Both authorities will spend at least pounds 100,000 on sending revised council tax bills to households.

Hereford and Worcester Fire Service and Herefordshire Council are two of six local authorities to undergo budget caps as part of a Government drive to reduce high council tax bills.

Hereford and Worcester Fire Service had put its precept up by 26 per cent and Government originally proposed a pounds 2 million cut.

The fire service warned it would trigger fire station closures and 180 job losses. It petitioned the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and that amount was reduced.

Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford said all authorities had received above inflation increases in general grant for two years running and in exchange there was 'no justification' for excessive increases.

Chief Fire Officer David O'Dwyer said Governmentdriven community programmes on fire prevention would suffer. 'I am pleased that they have listened to our representations and set a higher capping figure and whilst this might avoid redundancies it still leaves the authority with some difficult decisions to make.

'We will need to examine the consequences of working with a constrained budget that is less than the fire authority originally intended,' he said.

Leader of Herefordshire Council Roger Phillips said the Public satisfaction with the performance of local councils has fallen sharply, according to surveys compiled for the Government.

The results of market research conducted by local authorities shows growing apprehension about crime, poor housing, social services and schools.

Findings will not be published until later in the year, but Warwickshire County Council admitted that its Public Satisfaction Survey showed a sharp fall in the percentage of respondents who felt the local authority was doing a good job - down from 63 per cent to 55 per cent.

Results from other shire counties, obtained by Warwickshire, indicate a similar trend. Satisfaction rates in Oxfordshire fell from 60 per cent to 49 per cent, in Leicestershire from 63 per cent to 52 per cent and in Gloucestershire from 57 per cent to 47 per cent. …