COUNCIL leader Ray Puddifoot praised his administration for producing ‘an exceptional budget’ which made £17.7million-worth of cuts.
Prior to the big budget debate at Uxbridge Civic Centre this Thursday, the Conservative-run cabinet gave its formal backing to the spending and saving proposals for 2012/13 at its meeting last Thursday.
Deputy leader, Councillor David Simmonds, explained that a significant reduction in spending on services was necessary this year in order to provide extra contingency against the risk of financial uncertainty in future years.
“If we are to continue providing decent public services we need to ensure we have a significant cushion of balances,” he said.
Money allotted for contingency will shoot up from £176,000 this year to a whopping £5.8m next year.
Mr Simmonds continued: “While it may look like we have gone from bust in 2000 to profit in 2012, we have to remember that there is a lot of uncertainty over the near future on what funding we will get from central government.
“We have to be prepared.”
The 2012/13 budget includes the fourth, and probably last, year of zero council tax rises in Hillingdon, thanks to a government incentive.
But there are big cuts of £8.3m to the social care and housing budget, enabled partly by the closure of three day centres for the disabled.
And nearly half of the £89.3m capital budget is taken up by the urgent need to provide 27.5 extra primary school classrooms over the next few years.
Mr Puddifoot said he supported the cautious approach his council was taking. “We have made efficiencies but we have not cut frontline services,” he told the cabinet meeting.
“The social services part of the budget made reference to the pressure of demographics and population changes, plus the reform of housing benefits.
“While we have this under control at the moment, I will give my personal attention to this issue next year to ensure we have got what we need.
“This is an exceptional budget and we are building our reserves so that we are not knocked back in future years.
“Other authorities might have to stop cutting grass, but not us.”
What do you think of the budget? Have costs been cut in the right areas or should other areas have been slashed? Email email@example.com.