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Cuts loom large as Great Yarmouth Borough Council launches biggest consultation in years

PUBLISHED: 09:23 29 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:52 29 July 2014

Great Yarmouth seafront.   Picture: James Bass

Great Yarmouth seafront. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

Closing public toilets, charging more for burials and selling off council buildings are just some of the ways Great Yarmouth Borough Council believes it could save money.

Suggested shake ups and what they could nominally save or generate:

Increase fees for cemetery and cremation - £98,000.

Generate income through greater renting out of spaces in parks and open spaces, eg to local buisnesses for cafes - £76,000.

Charge people council tax who are using mobile homes as permanent residences - £75,000.

Review and reduce footpath and decorative lighting, where safe and appropriate - £63,000.

Close the borough council’s cash offices and help customers to move on to other payment methods - £60,000.

Carry out a review of all the grants the borough council provides to voluntary and community organisations, and introduce a new approach to awarding grants - £50,000.

Review and reduce the number of public toilets (currently the borough council spends £514,000 a year providing 22 toilet blocks) - £42,000.

Introduce a charge for pre-application planning advice - £42,000.

Expand the building control services the borough council offers to generate additional income - £42,000.

Review and rationalise council buildings outside of the Town Hall complex - £40,000.

Increase the fees for court summons for people who have not paid their council tax - £26,000.

The proposed cuts were laid bare yesterday as the borough council launched its biggest public consultation in years, calling on residents to have their say and suggest their own money-saving or income-generating ideas as the cash-strapped authority looks to plug a £4.7m funding gap over the next four years.

The council is looking to save £1.5m in 2015/16.

Leader Trevor Wainwright said the authority had already identified £1.1m of savings without touching frontline services by moving more services online, renegotiating external contracts and sharing services. But he repeated the stark warning that “there will inevitably be increasingly difficult choices ahead”.

The consultation paper puts forward 11 ideas on how to save money or increase income, from increasing cemetery and cremation fees and renting out spaces in public parks, to closing the borough council’s cash offices, reducing the number of public toilets and reviewing the way the council hands out cash grants to community or voluntary groups.

The suggestions are “not set in stone” but suggest how the council will be cutting back as central government funding continues to drop. “There are 11 things here for people to comment on, ways we know we can increase income quickly,” said Mr Wainwright.

“There are ways we could save huge amounts of money right away, we could save half a million pounds now if we closed all the toilet blocks. But this is giving residents the opportunity to genuinely have their say, to tell us what they want.”

After saving £1.1m “behind the scenes”, the council must still find £400,000 of savings for 2015/16. The 11 proposals put forward in the survey would save an estimated £600,000, suggesting that not all would have to be taken immediately.

Mr Wainwright said ideas from the public would be taken seriously and considered alongside internal ideas and proposals from PricewaterhouseCoopers consultants, who were brought in at the start of April to tighten up the budget for 2014/15.

At the same time as having a say on how to save money in the next nine months, the public are being asked for their “aims and aspirations for the borough” – a bid to shape a long-term vision and find out what residents consider a priority for spending, whether it is street cleaning, investment in tourism, flood management or the creation of jobs.

Interim chief executive Gordon Mitchell, who joined the council earlier this month, said: “This isn’t just an exercise in which cuts will be the least damaging.

“The council needs to be clear on how people want the future of Great Yarmouth to be. In budget terms, that’s focusing on investing in what is best for the borough for years to come.”

• The consultation, which runs until October 20, can be completed online here. Paper copies can be picked up from the Town Hall with a pre-paid envelope.

• Where do you think the council should make savings? Email lauren.rogers@archant.co.uk

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