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Latest wave of cuts announced by West Berkshire Council today

Public transport, libraries, museums and charities all set to be hit under fresh proposals

John Herring

Chris Ord

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886633

West Berkshire Council logo

FUNDING for public transport, libraries, museums, theatres and charities is set to be slashed in the latest round of shocking cuts to public services proposed by West Berkshire Council. 

The cash-strapped local authority is hoping to save a massive £17.5million in the next financial year with £10.8million worth of savings and massive cuts to 38 public services already approved by the council's executive in the first phase.

The Conservative-led council is now proposing to make further cuts in Phase Two by slashing funding in 16 areas, many of which had already seen heavy cuts in Phase One.

Residents have until Monday, March 7, to have their say on the proposals with the council asking the public to explain how they will be affected by the cuts and any ideas they have which might help mitigate that impact.

The proposals, announced in full today for the first time, would see the following cuts made to public services:

Public Transport would have funding slashed by a further £460,000 in 2016/17 following the council's proposal to cut £320,000 in the previous consultation. This will mean drastic changes to bus services including a reduction in the services from Newbury to Wash Common, Hungerford and Lambourn, as well as withdrawing funding for the Readibus scheduled service between Newbury, Thatcham and Reading.  

Eight of the nine libraries across West Berkshire would close, as well as the two mobile libraries, saving the council £730,000.

The council propose to reduce the net cost of running West Berkshire Museum by £40,000 a year by reducing schools and other educational work by 40 per cent, cutting recruitment and training by 20 per cent, and reducing public access to the museum's collections by 20per cent.

West Berkshire Citizens Advice Bureau would have a further funding cut of £25,000, on top of the £15,000 already proposed, meaning a total reduction in funding of £40,000 (18 per cent) in 2016/17.

Children's centre services will see another £150,000 slashed from its funding following a £300,000 cut in funding already consulted on in the first phase.

Funding to the Corn Exchange and the Watermill Theatre will be slashed by 44 per cent which the council hopes will save £150,000 per year.

Community Council for Berkshire (CCB), an independent charity with experience in community development work, will have its funding cut by 50 per cent to £3,400.

The Community Furniture Project (CFP) based in Newbury would also see its funding cut by 50 per cent to £5,623, with the remaining funding removed the following year.

The Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) will see funding cut for one Family Support Worker (leaving the equivalent of 3.4 full time support workers), which the council says will save around £33,000 a year.

Adult Substance Misuse Support Services will have its overall budget cut by 8.4 per cent to £840,993, saving the council £71,000.

The West Berkshire Neighbourhood Wardens Scheme would see the council's annual financial contribution of £208,000 stopped.

Parking charges in car parks across Pangbourne, Thatcham and Theale will be increased while the reduced Sunday car parking charge in Newbury car parks will be scrapped and replaced with the higher weekday rate.

This is on top of the proposed increase in parking charges in the first phase of cuts which included changes to the tariff in the Newbury car parks and a 35 per cent increase in the price of season tickets.

All2gether, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company supporting minority communities in West Berkshire is to have £5,000 of its £10,000 funding cut, while the remaining funding will be removed in 2017/18.

Trading Standards, Environmental Health and Licensing services will be altered saving £50,000 in 2016/17, as well as the scrapping of funding to the Greener Sub-Partnership under the Phase One proposals.

The council's offices at Sainsbury's at Calcot will be closed resulting in savings of around £20,000.

The service at the Smallmead Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) at Island Road, Reading, will be stopped for West Berkshire Residents, saving around £97,000. 

Leader of West Berkshire Council, Roger Croft, said: "It's really important that people take the time to consider our proposals and have their say. Last week we welcomed news that following our lobbying of government we'll receive a £2.8m grant over the next two years. It won't go far but it will give us some more flexibility when we listen and respond to the consultation feedback. I'm encouraging people to have that conversation with us and tell us their views."

Details of the proposal and how to respond can be found here with a decision made on the latest round of cuts due to be made at the council's Executive Committee Meeting on April 21.

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