COUNCILLORS have agreed a rise in council tax for Dorset as well as cuts of £15million.
In proposing the budget for the 2014-15 financial year, county council leader Spencer Flower said members needed to ‘embrace change’ of a ‘radical’ nature as it sought to face the challenges it encounters in coming years.
He said: “Every year is a challenge that is becoming more and more challenging as the government’s austerity programme bites even harder with further cuts to the settlement year on year.”
Coun Flower said that despite the council finding £60m in savings over the last three years and reducing its staff by more than 700 full-time equivalent posts, it still needed to find £43m in savings over next three years including £15.1m this year.
He said the cuts to come would not be ‘more of the same’ but would need the council to look at the way it does everything and adopt a ‘radical and transforming approach’.
Coun Flower said: “We need to embrace change.”
The council leader also proposed a council tax rise of 1.99 per cent for the coming year, after the authority had frozen the charge for the last three years in exchange for a grant from central government. The rise will see the charge for a Band D mid range property increase by £23.25 from £1,168.29 to £1,191.54.
Coun Flower said: “This council, along with many other councils, has reached the point where further reductions in funding are likely to have a serious impact on the delivery of front line services.”
He also said that council members were being encouraged to play more of a leading role in the council’s actions, and as a result each councillor would be allocated a budget of £5,000 to put towards projects in their wards.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, Janet Dover, whose speech was read by Coun Barry Cooper as she was unable to attend due to illness, said that her party would be supporting the council tax increase but could not support the overall budget strategy proposed by the Conservative group.
She said: “We will support the council tax rise of 1.99 per cent, but we do so to ensure the people of Dorset continue to receive services at an acceptable level.
“By supporting this rise it does not mean the Liberal Democrats agree with the Tory budget strategy detail as it stands.”
Mike Byatt, leader of the Labour groups, said his members would also be opposing the budget as it had concerns over a number of issues, particularly the issue of the living wage.
He added: “We have not yet been ambitious enough in the way we are going to do business in the future.”
The council tax rise and budget were approved, with the Conservative majority on the council ensuring all proposals were passed.