St Albans council jobs likely to go as budget ammendments are finally agreed

St Albans City & District Council

St Albans City & District Council - Credit: Archant

HOURS of fiery debate over the district council’s budget came to a head on Tuesday night when councillors finally approved the proposed amendments.

At a full St Albans district council meeting members voted to push through the changes tabled by opposition parties to the 2013/14 budget, which include investing thousands of pounds into local projects, subject to borrowing additional money.

Last month the budget was accepted in principle, but Tory group leader, Cllr Julian Daly, brought it back to be discussed and put forward a number of borrowing requirements.

The council will borrow up to £100,000 from its reserves and the asset management programme, which is used to pay for repairs and maintenance of council-owned facilities, for new computer hardware and printers at the Civic Centre.

A further £600,000 will be loaned to reconfigure the Civic Centre so the ground floor can be sublet to the police or another organisation to bring in additional income.

But as a result of there being no “headroom” left in the council’s reserves it is likely that between 10 and 20 council jobs will be shed.

Cllr Daly said: “It is not as simple as saying we can pass on the cost to the local tax payer and that falls back therefore on a very high likelihood that there will be a reduction in the staff headcount.

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“There is nothing certain in that and the sooner we address that issue the better because I think we owe it to our staff them to deal with that as soon as possible.”

After the crunch meeting Lib Dem group leader Cllr Robert Donald said he was pleased amendments such as scrapping plans to charge for the first three hours of parking at Westminster Lodge were pushed through. He said: “There is £600,000 now going to go to helping the most vulnerable, for our local economy and for our environment.”

Other key components of the budget include freezing council tax and continuing council tax benefit for at least another year.

Officers have also been asked to report back in the summer to look at how the budget gap can be closed in future years.

Labour deputy group leader Cllr Jacob Quagliozzi said: “This budget is fairer because of the influence of the Labour party on it, saving 2,155 people on lower incomes a rise in the money they pay in council tax and preventing an inflation busting rise in rents for more than 5,000 council tenants. It is a back from the brink budget.”