Two Powys budget cut plans rejected at crunch meeting

Protesters made their views on the cuts known

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Two controversial proposals in a £20m package of savings in Powys have been thrown out by councillors.

Plans to cut special education services and to raise day care centre charges were shelved during a full council meeting in Llandrindod Wells disrupted by protesters.

After failure to agree a budget the meeting was adjourned to 5 March.

Leaders of the different groups on the council will now meet cabinet members to thrash out new proposals.

The authority was considering closing pre-school assessment centres for special and additional learning needs in four schools and closing 18 specialist support units across 16 schools.

But councillors decided to shelve the plan for a year and find from reserves the £87,500 it would have saved.

Ring-fenced

The council's deputy leader Graham Brown said: "This will allow the implementation of the current consultation process to prepare the new service, whatever it will look like."

Plans to increase elderly day care centre charges by almost six times were also dropped.

The charge for attending a centre was going to be increased from £6 to £35.

The decision to reject the two proposals are now ring-fenced and will not be affected by next week's budget settlement.

But members rejected an amendment to limit cuts in funding to Powys CAB and other advice services to 30%.

This means the original proposal to halve the county's CAB funding of £93,580 in the next financial year is still part of the budget proposals to be decided next week.

Before the meeting Powys Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) handed over a 5,000-name petition to the council.

The bureau says the funding cut could leave Powys as the only county in Wales without CAB services.

The organisation claims its offices in Newtown, Brecon and Ystradgynlais are under threat with 22 full and part-time staff facing redundancy.

Personal alarm

Earlier about 100 demonstrators gathered outside County Hall in Llandrindod Wells ahead of the meeting at Llandrindod Wells.

But a small group went inside the building to the council chamber where one set off a personal alarm.

They were then removed by police after stopping the meeting for around 10 minutes.

Many of the demonstrators were concerned over the future of special or additional needs education.

The council's budget savings plan includes service cuts, a possible 3.95% hike in council tax and increased service charges.

Up to 400 Powys workers are also likely lose their jobs as the local authority aims to save £40m by April 2017.

Other savings proposed by the council include:

  • Ending the meals-on-wheels service to save £80,250
  • Save £500,000 by reducing subsidies given to bus companies in the county
  • Increasing car parking charges in the council's car parks (£178,000)
  • Review of the schools meals service delivered to reduce cost (£292,000)

A Powys council spokesman said: "Group leaders will meet this week to consider the budget and will call in cabinet members for discussions as and when necessary.

"It is expected the new cabinet proposals for the budget will be circulated to all councillors at the start of next week."

Traditionally, the majority of Powys council candidates stand as independents and those elected come together after polling day to form groupings and an administration.

The groups that will take part in the discussions include the Powys Independent Alliance, the Independent Group, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Non-political group.

The budget settlement meeting that will now takes place on 5 March will also include a decision on the proposal to raise council tax 3.95% in April.

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