Putting together the budget has been the ‘most challenging time’ in the 20 year career of Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone.
Speaking at the full council meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Coun Stone said the authority had worked hard to create ‘robust and achievable savings’.
The budget, which will see 200 jobs go as the authority tries to make £20 million of savings, was passed with just four councillors abstaining from the vote. All others voted in favour.
And this is not the end of the pressure. The council will also have to find further savings of £12 million in the 2013/14 financial year.
As the Guardian reported two weeks ago, Council Tax will once again be frozen, with the council taking advantage of a £2.33 million Government grant for doing so.
And although the council is being forced to make major savings, £60 million has been set aside for investments including improvements to school building and remodelling of the A57 at the Todwick crossroads, over the next three years.
“This year’s budget was the result of a great deal of planning, debate and soul searching,” said Coun Stone.
“We wanted a fair deal for everyone and to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
“The last two years have been a difficult time with difficult decisions needing to be made. But through it all the people of Rotherham have been our priority.”
Coun Stone said the council had listened to feedback from the people of Rotherham about what they wanted to see protected.
“One of the messages coming through is the need to protect our front line services, vulnerable people and to look at different ways of providing services,” he said.
“We are working with our partners to ensure that we are achieving more bang for our buck.”
Conservative councillor John Gilding said he was ‘pleased’ that the council was taking up the Government’s grant and freezing Council Tax.
But he criticised the Labour led administration’s spending priorities over previous years, arguing that money could have been better spent elsewhere.
He said the borough’s roads had been in a state of disrepair for the last 12 years, while the council spent money on renovating its own buildings and staff offices.
“Most of the roads in Rotherham are pot holed and neglected, but we have a plush town hall and buildings for staff,” he said.
But Coun Stone said that even if the council ploughed all of its grant funding into the roads, it still would not be enough.
“If you ever get the chance to be running Rotherham, you will have the same problem,” he added.