Bin collections every three weeks and town hall closures part of Lancaster’s “impossible budget”

A Lancaster meerkat enclosure forms part of city council budget proposals
A Lancaster meerkat enclosure forms part of city council budget proposals
  • Proposals include three weekly bin collections by 2020 and new charges for green waste
  • Review of council’s property portfolio, including Lancaster and Morecambe Town Halls
  • New charges for Happy Mount Park and scrapping of CCTV
  • Council look to save £2.8m annually over the next few years

Waste collection, swimming pools, arts, community and voluntary funding, CCTV and council buildings all face the axe as Lancaster City Council looks to save £5.6m over the next two years.

The council is proposing to collect household waste once every three weeks from 2020, start charging for collection of green waste, review the future of the city’s Maritime and Cottage Museums, and charge £1 for entry to the splash park at Happy Mount Park in Morecambe from July.

Bin collections are under threat

Bin collections are under threat

But plans to create a money spinning meerkat enclosure at Williamson Park could net £105,000 in profit for the council over four years.

Coun Richard Newman-Thompson, cabinet member with responsibility for finance, said the council is in an “impossible position” and there isn’t enough money to run the services that people want.

More job cuts and redundancies are also expected to follow.

If approved by full council the plans will see huge changes to the services delivered by the city council.

Lancaster Town Hall.

Lancaster Town Hall.

The proposals come as Lancashire County Council looks to cut library, museum, public transport and children’s services, while raising council tax by 3.99 per cent.

Lancaster City Council is proposing to raise its council tax precept by 1.99 per cent in April adding a further sting to the proposed cuts.

Voluntary, community and faith sectors could lose up to £788,000 in funding over four years, while plans to cut funding for the Marsh Community Centre would save over £55,000.

Charges for green waste - £30 per container per year - are also on the cards, saving a total of £3.1m over four years, as well as charging for replacement bins and boxes, saving £380,000.

Charges to be introduced at Happy Mount Park's splash park

Charges to be introduced at Happy Mount Park's splash park

Reducing funding for rural public toilets by 50 per cent would save £59,000.

The council also plans to scrap its funding for CCTV across the district from April 2017 (saving £511,000), and reduce its mobile phone, printing and vehicle usage costs by a total of £142,500 over four years.

Pitch charges for stalls at Lancaster’s Charter Market and Morecambe’s Festival Market would also rise by 3.5 per cent.

Heysham, Carnforth and Hornby swimming pools are on the chopping block again, and the council would look to pull out of the annual International Youth Games.

On the other end of the spectrum, the council proposes to spend £43,000 on new paths at Happy Mount Park, and upgrade Salt Ayre Sports Centre to a tune of £5m over five years.

£3.2m will also be spent on sea and river defence and studies, as opposed to £1.4m in 2015/16, with £1.4m in the budget for improving streets and properties in Morecambe town centre, including the planned upgrade of the area around the Arndale.

Coun Newman-Thompson said: “We find ourselves in an almost impossible position and are faced with decisions that we would prefer not to have to make.

“But with relentless cutbacks by the Government we have been effectively forced to cut services and bring in higher charges.

“We don’t want to do this and while we will do our best to limit the impact on our communities, the reality is that we have to find the savings from somewhere.

“Over the last five years the council has been able to make many savings by restructuring and changing the way it delivers services and becoming more efficient.

“That will only take you so far and there comes a point where there just isn’t enough money to continue running the services you want. We’re at that point now.”

The council also wants to bring in litter and dog muck wardens, run by a private company, to issue on the spot fines.

In the current financial year (to March 2016) the council will receive £9m in funding from the government.

This falls to £7.9m in 2016/17 and £6.9m in 2017/18. By 2020, it is expected to fall to around £5.9m.

A number of reviews will also be set in motion to determine how the council can save the remaining £2.8m it needs to find between 2018 and 2020.

The savings come on top of almost £5m savings that have already been made since 2010.

Cabinet will present its draft budget for 2016/17 onwards for initial consideration by the council on Wednesday February 3.

Final approval for the budget will go to full council on Wednesday March 2. Coun Eileen Blamire, Labour leader of the city council added: “This is part of a sustained government attack upon public services, but as a Labour group we are doing everything we can to mitigate the impact of these Tory cuts.

“There is still some good news among the proposals such as the exciting plans for Salt Ayre Sports Centre and the new meerkat enclosure at Williamson Park, which should be popular with families and help to generate income.”

For more information on Cabinet’s proposed budget visit www.lancaster.gov.uk/budget-update.