Cash-strapped council raises rates and defers interest repayments

holdich17:20 Friday 29th January 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: It looks like council tax will be going up by 4% in Peterborough next year. It’s one of the proposals in the City Council budget, announced today. Despite facing a deficit of £24 million next year, the Council is maintaining that no services will be cut. Our Political Reporter Hannah Olsson has more.
HANNAH OLSSON: It’s a legal requirement that every council must present a balanced budget, and this year hasn’t bee easy. Councils are facing a significant reduction in the amount of money they get from central government, alongside an ever-growing demand on their services. Peterborough City Council has a £24 million gap in its budget for next year. The first half of savings were announced at the end of last year, and today we found out about the second half. Many councils including Cambridgeshire say they’ll have no choice but to cut services, but Peterborough City Council say they’ve managed to pull the political rabbit out of the hat and balance their budget, and still provide the same services they are at the moment. I asked David Seaton who’s in charge of finance at the Council how they’ve done it.
DAVID SEATON: We’ve done it through things like the benefits of growth that we’ve seen, the extra income from council tax, the extra income from business rates, our innovative ways of doing things. And we’ve talked before about our customer experience programme, what that can do for us, and also the joint working we’re doing with other councils, and the income we’re getting from that.
HANNAH OLSSON: As David mentioned there, the key reason that Peterborough is in a healthier position that other councils is that it’s had so much growth in recent years. Peterborough is the third fastest growing city in the UK, and with new homes being built and new businesses opening, the Council simply gets more money.
CHRIS MANN: Yes Hannah but even with that, the Council still needs to find an extra £24 million next year. So how are they going to do that?
HANNAH OLSSON: Well one of the ways they’re saving money is through some clever refinancing of the Council’s debt. They’ve already told us in budget part one how they’ll be extending the debt on their assets from 25 to 42 years. They’ve now said they’re also going to be making these debt repayments more like mortgages, so the rate of interest is higher, but means the repayment is the same over the whole period, which in short means they won’t cost them as much now. There’s also going to be some savings in their staff costs. They’ll be closing their office between Christmas and New Year, stopping all the automatic pay increases for around 20% of council staff, and changing the way their staff are paid for travel. And of course they’re also planning to raise money by putting up council tax by 4%. Councils always have the option of increasing tax by 2%, but this year the Government also said they could add on an extra 2% as long as this money is spent on adult social care. Earlier in the week we heard that Cambridgeshire County Council isn’t planning on taking the Government up on this extra 2% offer, but Peterborough is.
CHRIS MANN: So ratepayers will want to know just how much does this extra money, this 4% rise, work out at.
HANNAH OLSSON: Well for the average Band D property, the council tax increase would work out at an extra 87p a week. Now the Band D property is a benchmark people use when we’re talking about tax rises. But it’s worth saying that the average property in Peterborough is actually Band B, so they would see an increase of 67p a week. This rise would add up to an extra £2.4 million for the Council’s coffers, although as I said half of this will have to be spent on adult social care. At the moment these are all still proposals. The final decision will be made on 9th march following a public consultation.
CHRIS MANN: Hannah Olsson there with that special report. Well let’s bring in the Leader of Peterborough City Council, John Holdich. Evening John.
JOHN HOLDICH: (DELAY) … believe me after an introduction like that. She’s really understood it.
CHRIS MANN: Good. (LAUGHS) Well glad that we’re presenting the facts.
JOHN HOLDICH: Good.
CHRIS MANN: But you’re caught between a rock and a hard place, because you say that you’re not cutting any services, but you have to save money. Are you sure nothing is going to be cut?
Continue reading “Cash-strapped council raises rates and defers interest repayments”

Ed Murphy 2014 Budget Scrutiny

08:26 Tuesday 11th February 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Opposition councillors in Peterborough have spoken out at plans to cut services there. The authority has outlined plans for next year’s budget. We’ve talked about it many times. It includes cutting back on the money it gives to Children’s Centres and many other services. Labour councillor Ed Murphy was at the Council meeting last night. Ed, quite a heated debate was had over some of these cuts, wasn’t it?
ED MURPHY: Yes, it turned into an extremely interesting meeting. It wasn’t just the opposition councillors. Conservative councillors were questioning their budget as well. They were doing scrutiny. It was quite a good meeting, councillors doing their job for a change.
Continue reading “Ed Murphy 2014 Budget Scrutiny”

Matthew Dalton On Cutting Bus Subsidies

bus07:20 Tuesday 2nd July 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: The amount of money used to subsidise bus services in Peterborough is being cut in half. It means that places like Maxey, Peakirk, and Etton could be left without a timetabled bus service. The City Council say they’ll invest in so-called demand responsive services instead. .. Joining me now to explain more about the changes in Peterborough is Cllr Matthew Dalton, the Cabinet Adviser to the Leader. Morning.
MATTHEW DALTON: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: So you’re going to save about half a million pounds here.
MATTHEW DALTON: That’s correct.
PAUL STAINTON: But didn’t you task a cross-party committee of councillors with coming up with some recommendations? They came up with something, you’ve ignored them, haven’t you? Continue reading “Matthew Dalton On Cutting Bus Subsidies”

Peterborough Council 2013 Budget Passed

energy07:40 Thursday 7th March 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Boy was it a feisty Council meeting at the Town Hall in Peterborough last night. Councillors were gathering to vote on the Budget proposals for the next twelve months, which included the equivalent of 63 full-time redundancies, a reduction in adult social care services, and cuts to the city’s playcentres. The proposal was passed, but only just. 29 voted in favour, and 25 councillors against, with one councillor abstaining. But listeners to the show contacted us this morning saying that the meeting had to be adjourned at one point because the debate became too heated. Continue reading “Peterborough Council 2013 Budget Passed”

Another Financial Disaster For Peterborough Council

barricades07:20 Wednesday 27th February 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: City Council officials have admitted that the solar panel project on the old Freemans building in Peterborough isn’t working, and the Council still doesn’t know what’s wrong with it. Peterborough City Council borrowed just under a million pounds so they could fit these panels on the former factory in Westwood Peterborough, but the panels have never actually worked, since being installed, and the Council chiefs have been unable to say when it will be fixed. Well Johnny D. is at the site of the building this morning. Continue reading “Another Financial Disaster For Peterborough Council”

David Seaton on Peterborough Budget Proposals

energy08:07 Monday 28th January 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Proposals to close playcentres in the north of the county have been criticised by parents and local councillors in Peterborough. The plans are part of the City Council’s budget proposal, which includes £17 million worth of savings. They also want to axe the equivalent of 63 full-time jobs, cut bus service subsidies, stop its funding of the Halfords Tour cycle series, close the Enterprise Centre on Bridge Street, and put an end to the much talked about Neighbourhood Committees. .. Let’s speak to David Seaton. He’s the Cabinet Member for Resources at Peterborough City Council, He helped put these budget proposals together. Morning David.
DAVID SEATON: Morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: First of all, let’s deal with the £17 million black hole, if you like. How did that come about? Continue reading “David Seaton on Peterborough Budget Proposals”

Democracy in Peterborough

07:07 Friday 23rd March 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Could the way that Peterborough City Council is governed be about to change? From 4th May, councils across the country will have the option of scrapping the current cabinet system, which we have in Peterborough, and replacing it with a new system which would see a committee run various departments. Now some say this is a fairer and more transparent way to run local authorities. Critics say though it makes the whole system way too slow, and you get nothing done. Nick Sandford is Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Peterborough, and is in favour of the change, Nick? Continue reading “Democracy in Peterborough”

Opposition Councillors Unite to Attack Tory Budget Proposals

08:08 Monday 30th November 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: As the dust settles on the lollipop cuts fiasco, rival parties in Peterborough are now joining together to form their own alternative budget plans. Representatives from Labour, The Libdems and the Independent Group are meeting tomorrow to discuss some of the policies they want to see change from the Council’s budget proposals. The Labour group want to see the Council share more services with neighbouring counties, and for councillors to take a 30% cut in allowances. Well earlier we heard from Jonathan Isaby, the Political Director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. He criticised the Tory proposals for raising council tax, and said he prefers some of the Labour Group’s cost saving methods. (TAPE)
JONATHAN ISABY: The Labour group have put forward an alternative budget today. I haven’t seen the detail of it, but from what the headlines were saying the idea of cutting councillors’ allowances, sharing some services and having fewer consultants sound some very sensible ideas as to how this can be done. And hopefully Councillor Seaton will take a look at that plan. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well Ed Murphy is a Labour councillor in Peterborough. With us, Nick Sandford as well, from the Liberal Democrats. Morning guys.
BOTH: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Ed first of all, where do you disagree with the budget that’s been proposed already? Where are you considering making changes? Continue reading “Opposition Councillors Unite to Attack Tory Budget Proposals”