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Saturday, 29 November 2014

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South Lakes council to use tax reserves

A COUNCIL tax freeze looks set to be approved by South Lakes councillors next week – despite facing a budget deficit of more than £500,000.

The proposed budget will balance the books by scrapping council tax discounts on second homes and meeting the remaining shortfall with money from the council’s reserves.

A budget deficit of more than £661,000 next year, rising to £1.9m in 2016/17, has been causing South Lakeland District Council bosses headaches for months.

The budget to be put before a meeting of the full council on Thursday suggests using almost £1m of its reserves over the next two years to plug the gap.

The council says it plans to use £471,000 from its reserves next year, which are available due to “prudent financial management and savings in previous years”.

SLDC said its funding from central government for next year has fallen by £555,000 compared to 2012/13, meaning it has had to find ways to bridge the gap.

A statement from SLDC said: “The council has a strong record of making financial savings and, during 2012/13, SLDC identified a further £1.3m of savings and work is continuing to develop this further over the next two years.

“All council services continue to be reviewed and officers and members continue to seek value for money through effective management and efficient procurement.

“The council will focus on ensuring it works within its means and delivers cost effective services for the residents of South Lakeland.”

SLDC’s shadow cabinet has also put forward an alternative budget proposal to be considered at the meeting.

Windermere councillor Ben Berry said the shadow cabinet is endorsing the savings identified in the proposed budget but has identified ways to provide more for taxpayers’ money.

Proposals include investment in expanding popular council car parks, a local authority mortgage scheme and enforcement of dog control orders.

Cllr Berry said: “We have looked very hard for schemes that can benefit residents without costing that much money.

“I am really excited about the local authority mortgage scheme, which will help young people that are really struggling to save up for a deposit.”

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