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Changes to the original savings proposition

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Following the consultation and recommendations of cabinet, the county council has decided to modify six of the original 35 savings propositions. The six are: to cease all bus subsidies, implement operational changes in fire and rescue, slim down the council’s scrutiny role, introduce on-street parking charges, withdraw post-16 travel assistance for most new students, and charge for residents’ parking permits.

Full Council has agreed that:

• Proposals for the removal of the second fire engine at Penrith, Workington, Maryport, Kendal  and Whitehaven will not take place;
• Proposals for the removal of the second fire engine from Barrow and its relocation to Ulverston will take place;
• The proposal to close Dalton fire station will proceed but a resilience fire engine for major incidents will be sited in Barrow;
• The service’s two aerial ladder platforms (ALPs) will continue to be based in Carlisle and Barrow crewed by staff from Carlisle and Furness.

The revised arrangements for Barrow and the wider Furness peninsula will see Barrow’s second full-time crewed engine relocated to Ulverston, as originally proposed, but with the current Dalton engine relocated to Barrow and designated as a ‘resilience’ pump available to respond to major incidents.

There is no set response time for ‘resilience’ pumps meaning crews could travel into Barrow from elsewhere to staff this pump. This change is linked to the revised arrangements for crewing the Aerial Ladder Platform and comes at no extra cost.

Councillor Barry Doughty, Council Member responsible for Cumbria Fire and Rescue service, said:

“The fire and rescue service is one of the council’s life or death services, so I’ve not been surprised that our proposals generated a high level of public interest. At a time when we hear so many stories about public apathy, it’s been encouraging to see local people making their voices heard.

“The original consultation proposals to remove the second pump from five stations acknowledged the significant reductions in all incidents across Cumbria in recent years. As the well as evidence though, our job as Council members was to make sure public confidence was also taken into account.

“Full Council has listened carefully to views put forward during the consultation and has concluded, despite the huge impact of the service’s fire prevention work, not to proceed with the changes as originally proposed.

“As a result we have dropped proposals to remove the second pumps from Penrith, Workington, Whitehaven, Kendal and Maryport.

“In relation to the Furness peninsula our revised proposals confirm that Council remains convinced that the relocation of one of Barrow’s full-time crewed engines to Ulverston provides for an enhanced level of response in the area.

“However, we have acknowledged the argument that Barrow requires additional resources to be available in exceptional circumstances, hence the proposal to locate a ‘resilience’ pump in the town to provide additional cover in those exceptional circumstances.

“This consultation has generated a huge amount of public feedback and I’d like to commend people on the time and effort they have put in to participating.”

A million pounds is being set aside to help Cumbria County Council phase in its proposed reductions to supported bus services.

Full Council has now agreed to provide additional one-off revenue funding in the areas of home to school/college transport for over 16 year olds and subsidised bus services to allow the budget propositions to be implemented more gradually.

The phased approach is still agreeing the fundamental principles of the budget propositions, but it is phasing in the implementation so that alternative transport arrangements can be introduced where possible before services are changed.

For subsidised bus services, this means that extra effort and support is being directed towards working with commercial bus operators to explore which services can be taken on commercially; it also allows the county council to spend more time with communities working on alternative community transport solutions before subsidies are withdrawn.

Thanks to Full Council's decision to phase in the savings, communities will not be faced with the ‘cliff-edge’ of immediate funding withdrawal. Parish councils will have more time to plan to see whether they want to start providing support to bus operators themselves or to develop their own volunteer network of community transport.

In the area of school/college buses, Full Council’s decision means that the county council will cease to procure subsidised home-to-school transport for new over 16 students from September 2014, although travel for existing students will be protected until the end of their course. The council’s existing hardship fund, which is provided to families on low incomes, will continue to be maintained.

The council will invest in proactively working with schools and colleges so they can set up their own arrangements directly with bus companies and where possible help schools utilise any spare capacity under the council’s existing spare seats scheme.

Cllr Keith Little, Council member responsible for transport, said: “Subsidised bus services and post-16 transport have been two of the issues which have generated the most concern among Cumbrian residents. We have recognised those concerns and have done all we can to mitigate their impact.

“I’m sure all county councillors would love to be in a position to say ‘we won’t make the cuts and we’re saving your services’ –but we just can’t do that. When we’re losing one pound in every four from Government, some non-statutory services are going to stop. What we can do is buy ourselves a little more time to explore all alternatives and hopefully come up with some innovative solutions by working with local partners and I think we have done this.

“These are difficult decisions to make, but hopefully a ‘can do’ approach is going to see some alternative provision which will be more sustainable in the long term.”

Full Council has opted for a joined-up and phased approach to introducing on-street parking charges and charges for residents’ parking permits in 2014/15. 

Full Council has approved the principle of charging for on-street parking at its budget meeting on 13 February, survey and planning work will now get underway to firm up the detail of where charging will be introduced.

The county council’s original budget proposition Our Area, Our Future envisioned beginning charging on-street charging in busy high-streets and high-demand areas. Full Council has agreed to set aside a one-off funding package of £300,000 to pay for a phased approach in 2014/15.

The precise locations of the paid-for parking will be confirmed once engineers have completed their surveying, scoping and planning work. The necessary legal and democratic process will be needed to implement new Traffic Regulation Orders which are introduced in consultation with residents and businesses.

The earliest date charging could be implemented would be later in autumn 2014 and Full Council has recommended that the introduction of a charge for residents parking permits should be coordinated with on-street parking charges.

When introduced, the charge for a resident’s parking permit in 2014/15 will be no more than £25.

Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s member responsible for highways, said: “This is a big step for Cumbria, so it’s important we get it right. By introducing on-street charging and residents permits in a phased, co-ordinated manner, it will allow us to fully understand where are the most effective locations, how it ties in with off-street parking and free parking areas, and what is the best technology to allow an affordable, practical and user-friendly solution.

“The key thing is that we recognise that, given the scale of the savings we must make, that on-street parking is the right long-term solution for a county like Cumbria. If done correctly it can mean smoother traffic flows, more availability of parking in the highest demand areas and benefits for businesses through an increase in available spaces.”

The council originally proposed to save £40,000 by streamlining the council’s scrutiny function. However, Full Council recognises that at a time of major change for the council, it is important that there is a robust process for scrutinising, reviewing and – where necessary – challenging the council’s decision making process. Therefore Full Council is recommending not to make these savings and instead deliver them through the wider efficiencies programme in 2014/15.