Tough choices – Public Meeting – Citygate Church, 28th November 2011

Chair: Doug Patterson, Chief Executive.

Panel: Cllr Graham Arthur; Cllr Stephen Carr; Cllr Robert Evans; Cllr Peter Morgan; Cllr Ernest Noa; Cllr Colin Smith; Cllr Tim Stevens.

Capacity audience.

Doug Patterson opened the meeting by spelling out the savings needed to be made which amount to a reduction of £50million over four years. Of this, approx £22million have been implemented, leaving approx £30million to be cut in the next two years by identifying £15million per year. For the coming year, £6.5million has already been identified and implemented – the purpose of this, and the previous three Public Meetings around the Borough, was to gain residents’ opinions on where these should be found.

Questions from the floor included:

Why can’t the Council use its reserves instead of making cuts? The answer from Cllr Carr was because half is automatically allocated, and the remaining half is for conducting normal business. Taking this for the short-term would store up trouble for the future. Cllr Arthur advised of a change in policy to make half the reserves ‘work harder’ via investment within the Borough.

Why are School Crossing attendants are being cut at the risk of young lives? The Council is in discussion with Schools putting forward three options for retaining the service in other ways, for instance parent volunteers, or individual schools paying for the service.

Questions were asked on the closure of Day Centres – The Council said all were under review, but those being named as expecting to close were rumours only.

A question on the Athletics Track received the answer that there are no plans to close it, but that the Council is trying to attract private money to fund improvements.

How can groups feeling disproportionately affected make their case to the Council? was answered with the usual list of communication routes.

The Council mentioned suggestions such as raising parking fees to raise revenue (but also acknowledged a steep drop in footfall in the High Street and the difficulty traders are already suffering), and the suggestion that Council Tax should be raised by 4% or 2% was put to the vote (but no result of the show of hands declared). However, apart from one member of the audience saying he was willing to volunteer after work for a couple of hours a week at the library for instance, there were no suggestions of where the £30million of savings/cuts should be made in the next two years.

A queston was asked about the proposed revamping of Beckenham High Street with stream and train. It was confirmed that these plans had now been set aside.

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