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Berkshire council to cut Citizens Advice funding in £10m savings drive

West Berkshire Council has proposed funding cuts to its Citizens Advice in an effort to continue running other services on current government investment.

The authority will also join a number of other councils in charging for garden waste collection, a move it says could generate £900,000 a year, with households paying a £50-a-year cost.

Officials say that increased need for public services added to dwindling central government funding means they will have to find around £10m in savings across the borough in order to deliver a balanced budget.

Citizens Advice is a system of charities that run through UK boroughs and offer residents free advice on legal, consumer and financial issues. It has been running since the 1930s.

There are also other plans to create efficiencies and bring in extra revenue, such as a change in planning application notices, but the council says it cannot continue to provide unless it cuts some costs.

Cllr Graham Jones, leader of West Berkshire Council, said communities were asking more from services every year but the authority was receiving less to deliver on those needs.

“We have looked first at how the council can work differently by becoming more efficient and by working more closely with other local authorities and with our communities,” he explained.

“Our priority has been to protect those services which support the most vulnerable people in our communities but it's inevitable that there will be an impact on some other services.

“Although we have set out our proposals for next year it’s important we give communities the chance to tell us how they will be impacted and what might be done to alleviate the impact of any decisions before we decide how to proceed.”

Over the past eight years the council claimed it has had to find savings of £55m, putting some of this down to the vast decrease in the Revenue Support Grant, which was worth nearly £34m to the authority in 2011/12.

In recent times, West Berkshire has changed its staff terms and conditions and made plans to reduce the number of councillors in the borough from 52 to 43, all as part of cost-saving works.

The budget proposals are available to view and respond to at the council’s dedicated webpage until 10 January 2018.

Today’s news follows announcements from a number of other councils that services will have to be cut, while some local authorities, such as Swindon Borough Council and Newcastle City Council, have been forced to make major job cuts – with the former potentially dropping as many as 400 staff to plug a £30m funding gap.

Top image: Sterling750

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