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Bournemouth freezing council tax by releasing £23m of reserves
BOURNEMOUTH council is dipping into its £100m stockpile of reserves to try and boost the local economy and ease the pressure on squeezed residents.
Despite having its government funding slashed, Bournemouth’s council leader has insisted there will be no cuts to frontline services or widespread redundancies.
Instead, the council plans to release more than £23million it has been holding in reserve to safeguard services and invest in a variety of schemes.
It is also planning on cutting council tax by 0.7 per cent to ensure residents will not have to pay any extra this year.
Cllr John Beesley, leader of the council, said: “We’ve been preparing our budget strategy since 2007. Part of that has been building up our reserves for when things got very tight.
“We started these preparations very early and it’s put us in a position where we can continue to deliver services even though we’ve got a lot less government money.”
An additional £6m is being ploughed into adult and children’s social services, which now accounts for some 60 per cent of the council’s budget.
And £17.5m of the earmarked reserves, along with £5.8m from unearmarked reserves, are being released or reallocated. This follows warnings from the government against local authorities holding high reserves.
The external auditor has indicated he will be checking Bournemouth’s reserves are sufficient but not excessive.
£15million of this money will be used to set up a community financing initiative, which will see the council provide mortgages to first-time buyers and loans to small and medium sized businesses.
“I think we can use these reserves far more effectively to help stimulate the local economy,” said Cllr Beesley.
“Likewise, we want to help first-time buyers and keep these people in Bourne-mouth.”
He pointed out that helping local businesses and first-time buyers would have knock-on benefits for other trades too.
The council’s road rescue fund will get a further £500,000, £1m will go towards capital projects and there is a further £437,000 for the recession fund.
The council also intends to drive forward the Town Centre Master Vision, buy private sector housing that is in disrepair and press ahead with plans to regenerate West Howe and Boscombe.
It will also work with Coastal Credit Union to promote current account banking facilities for vulnerable residents who cannot access facilities provided by high street banks.