By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottingham City Council is proposing to close six children’s centres as part of a range of cuts to save £12.2m over the next year.
The Labour authority is also planning to reduce the frequency of some Link bus services as well as increasing fares for the Medilink service, which takes staff and patients to hospital.
It also plans to raise Council Tax by 1.99 per cent and implement the Government’s one per cent social care precept.
The measures are part of a plan to reduce spending to cut a shortfall in the council’s overall budget.
The authority says the gap has been created by rising demand for services, combined with falling income from grants and other areas.
It also says it has been left £19.4m out of pocket through not being fully compensated for income lost as a result of tackling Covid-19.
Cllr Sam Webster (Lab), portfolio holder for finance at the city council, said: “What is clear is that, as demand for vital statutory services continues to rise, we simply cannot maintain the level of all the services we feel are required for Nottingham.”
Other plans include charging residents to take away their bulky waste and introducing a residents’ parking permit charging scheme – which means motorists will have to pay £35 for having a second vehicle and £50 for a third.
The council also plans to close public toilets at the Victoria Embankment and introduce a charge at the Greyhound Street toilets just off Old Market Square.
There are also plans to cut 91 full-time posts at the council, of which 23 are currently vacant. But even with £12.2m of cuts, the council says it still needs to save an extra £15.7m next year.
The £12.2m proposals are set to be approved by the council’s Executive Board next week before going out to public consultation for eight weeks. A final decision will then be made.
One of the biggest plans is to close six of its nine children’s centres and moving to a hub model of three, saving around £331,000.
It also plans to reduce play and youth services, saving £615,000, which includes the reduction of play and youth buildings in the city offering recreational activities.
Children’s Centres provide targeted services for vulnerable parents, early help for parents with zero to five-year-olds, preparing children for nursery and parenting sessions for those in social care.
They also provide parenting advice and sessions for parents who have children with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome as well as sleep sessions for children struggling to fall asleep. It is not yet known which ones will close.
Cllr Webster said reductions in government funding were behind the £28m gap in finances.
He said it also comes on the back of a “social care crisis”, with adult social care and child social care taking up a combined £155m of the council’s £240m overall budget.
He said: “These services are important to families and children – that is why we have desperately tried to safeguard them.”
He added he had tried to protect services for ‘years and years’ but says under funding by Government was most to blame for the decision to reduce services.
“I am frustrated by the things I have to do,” he added.
He said the cuts are not a result of Nottingham City Council setting up failed energy company, Robin Hood Energy, which lost taxpayers around £38m.
“It was a one-off issue,” he added.
“The biggest issue is the ongoing cost of services such as the social care crisis.”
He said, to date, around 702 children were being cared for by the council and the numbers were rising, with very few elderly residents in Nottingham able to fund their own residential care.
“It is important to stress that the proposals we are putting forward are not set in stone and are for genuine consultation over the coming weeks. We want to hear the views of local people and how changes will affect them and their communities.”
Cllr Andrew Rule, leader of the Conservative group at the council, said he believed the ‘spectre’ of Robin Hood Energy was still a ‘key reason’ for the council’s financial pressures overall.
He added: “I am most concerned though by proposals for whole scale cut backs affecting children’s centres and activities for young people which will only serve to increase demand for children’s in care services later down the line.
“Instead the council should look at selling off those council companies that are not delivering the promised returns, wholehearted attempts to cut non-essential spend such as in marketing, and more effective management and disposal of council property by genuinely opening up its extensive property portfolio to outside agents.”