Church schools face council cuts

PARENTS of church school pupils are to foot a £200,000 bill to help fund council tax cuts.Councillors unveiled their stripped-bare budget as they trumpeted the lower-than-expected rise of 3.

PARENTS of church school pupils are to foot a £200,000 bill to help fund council tax cuts.

Councillors unveiled their stripped-bare budget as they trumpeted the lower-than-expected rise of 3.8 per cent.

More than £12 million has been slashed from county council expenditure – with nearly £200,000 coming from the axing of free buses to voluntary aided schools.

Arts and sports in schools will also be squeezed by the belt-tightening budget, with a drop in funding of about £100,000.

Education cuts of 2pc were matched in all departments across the county council – only schools were spared the budget cull.

Savings of nearly £2million are to be made by reducing car allowances. Changing purchasing policies will save £1.5million.

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A 'handful' of positions are set to go, although there will be no compulsory redundancies.

Councillors from the joint Labour/Lib Dem ruling group admitted they had made "tough decisions" to keep the council tax rise a low as possible.

But the 3.8pc figure is still above the rate of inflation and will see 51p a week tacked on to a Band B property, taking the annual bill to nearly £720.

Budget mastermind councillor David Rowe said: "We are in a position that the figure of 3.8pc is shown to be low when you actually look at what other comparative authorities are setting, for example Norfolk and Essex.

"It is the lowest increase in the region for a county council, but to get there has not been an easy decision.

"We have had to make some quite tough decisions on how we get this figure."

Mr Rowe admitted the council had been chastened by the fury of tax payers at last year's whopping 18.5pc hike, but he insisted it was not a "knee-jerk" reaction.

Councillors also announced a grant of £3.1million from the Department for Education and Skills, £1.4million of which will create a county-wide service for children with special needs.

Council leader Bryony Rudkin said that was a bright spot in an otherwise tough budget. She said: "We know that people and communities will be affected by some of the changes we are making.

"This may not be entirely negative – for example, tackling difficult behaviour in schools can have a positive effect for the whole community.

"We know that people will find some of the measures we are taking difficult."

Tory leader Jeremy Pembroke was angered cuts were not introduced earlier.

He said: "My reaction to the £12.2 million savings is if it was possible this year, why wasn't it possible last year or, indeed, the year before?"

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