No council tax increase in Fenland and �100k public transport boost as council approves budget

FENLAND District Council’s budget was passed overwhelmingly tonight and pledged no increase in council tax but promised to find �100,000 to boost public transport.

Council leader Alan Melton was in robust form as he swept aside critics of his style of leadership by delivering a budget that contained a broad brush of policies destined to save money, eliminate waste but still maintain essential services.

Cllr Melton promised “no slash and burn” in Fenland and revealed efficiencies had begun long before the Government came to power.

Interviewed on the eve of the budget, Cllr Melton confirmed more than a tenth of the council’s 700 workforce had left in the past year since he became leader. Some had been made redundant but others had gone through the imposition of a freeze on recruitment, natural wastage, realignment of posts and in some instances through job sharing.

He said: “We’ve been constantly ahead of the pack but this process doesn’t end with this budget.

“All members of staff recognise we are all in financial straits but that doesn’t mean we don’t value their work – we do and I emphasise that most strongly. But this council decided against what you might call the ‘big bang’ and have done things differently.”

He said Fenland had achieved a balanced budget that at one time threatened a funding gap of �1.553million but a “slimmed down management” started the ball rolling.

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Council Tax would be frozen for the coming year and it may yet be possible to continue that freeze for another year, he said, if more savings can be found.

And he pledged that the council’s revenue reserves, currently at �3million, would only need to provide �200,000 to balance the coming year’s books.

He also won support to provide �100,000 to communities to help fund public transport initiatives.

Cllr Melton said: “I got the idea after seeing a bus owned by a local charity parked up for most of the week and wondered why that couldn’t be used to help take people to hospital, run them shopping or for local journeys when it wasn’t being used for the charity’s work.”

By accepting funding bids from these sorts of community groups, he said, both parties would benefit - the charity by increasing use of its bus and being paid to do so, and communities by getting improved transport.

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