Merton’s Draft Budget Announced

Merton Council?s proposed 2002-2003 budget will go under the spotlight at its Scrutiny and Overview Committee over the next few weeks before being approved by Council early March.

The outline budget, agreed by Cabinet last night, could lead to a four to five per cent Council Tax increase, the lowest in Merton for the past six years.

However, it also gives increases to spending in important areas, where local residents have said they want more resources.

These include:

· £1.2 million to Children?s Care
· £100,000 for older people
· £300,000 for family support services
· £800,000 to deal with increased pupil numbers
· £560,000 for the Schools Standards Fund
· £650,000 for increased work tackling fly tipping, abandoned vehicles and additional town centre cleaning

In addition the Cabinet is recommending Corporate savings over £2.0 million, as well as £2.8 million savings in departments. The Corporate savings include £500,000 from the implementation of the new Human Resources strategy and £680,000 from efficiency savings across the Council.

Council Leader Councillor Andrew Judge said the draft budget looks positive for Merton.

He said: ?Our intention is to reduce the Council tax increase of previous years, but, at the same time maintain spending in areas where Merton people have said they want it.?

Councillor Judge emphasised that figures were preliminary and depended on the final Government grant settlement due at the end of January and the outcome of the month-long scrutiny process.

He said: ?We will be debating it through scrutiny and local people will have an opportunity to respond with their views. I would certainly welcome comments from residents.

‘Cabinet will consider alternatives on 22nd February and the final budget will be set on by Council on 9th March.?