The leader of cash-strapped Luton Borough Council has set out her vision for how the town will cope with huge budget cuts over the next three years.
With savings of £48 million to be made and spending on social care predicted to account for more than half of the council’s budget by 2015, the authority is having to jettison many of its discretionary services.
But Hazel Simmons promised the Labour-run council “would not give in” to the government’s “attack on public services” and would find different ways to provide services, such as commissioning voluntary sector organisations to run day centres for the elderly.
She said that at the heart of the council’s plan would be business growth in the town, better educating people so that they have the skills required to secure good jobs, and protecting front line services.
But many services will have to be reduced, such as grounds maintenance, street cleaning, school transport and highways maintenance.
In an interview before the ‘draft prospectus’ was put before councillors last night (Weds), Cllr Simmons told the Luton News: “By 2015 things will have changed drastically.
“These budget cuts are totally changing the way we look at public services. We are particularly focusing on services to the vulnerable but it might not be us that delivers them and they might not be delivered in the same way.”
At the meeting, Lib Dem group leader David Franks questioned how the council would be able to stimulate business growth while cutting costs.
“The prospectus says the council wants to attract businesses to the town but it also lays out plans for dirty streets and flowerless parks,” he said.
“That’s not much of an incentive for existing Luton business to expand or for new businesses to move here.”
And referring to the financial losses incurred by the Love Luton Festival, he added: “It is impossible to square the statement in this document that the council has to achieve ‘best value for every public pound spent’ with the waste of nearly £500,000 on pop concerts.”