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EAST Cambridgeshire residents are to choose where the axe should fall as cash-strapped county council chiefs struggle to balance their books. Councillors want the public to decide which services should be cut and which should be saved as they prepare to
EAST Cambridgeshire residents are to choose where the axe should fall as cash-strapped county council chiefs struggle to balance their books.
Councillors want the public to decide which services should be cut and which should be saved as they prepare to shave millions of pounds from county spending.
But even after the cuts have been made, hard-pressed taxpayers face a five per cent increase in their Council Tax, forcing those living in an average Band D property to find almost another £45 a year.
Also Cambridgeshire County Council will still be overspending on services by £1.76 million with a further deficit of £1.5 million from trading services, such as school meals.
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The Tory-controlled council has already revealed that it plans to slash £2.8 million from environment and community services, including 1.3 million cuts to support services for vulnerable adults and almost £1 million from children and young people's services.
Spending on respite care - the service which allows families a much-needed break from caring for the severely disabled - could be one area where a £40,000 saving could be made.
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The move would reduce care to a maximum of 22 nights per year, and council chiefs are expecting to be hit by complaints from families who will struggle to cope with even less help from social services.
More than £500,000 looks set to be cut from the road maintenance budget and there are £95,000 worth of savings on the county's library book fund with a further £5,000 reduction to the mobile library services.
Now East Cambridgeshire residents are going to be asked where their priorities lie and which services should be sacrificed.
Leading councillors from each of the political parties will be available to answer questions and hear views at Ely library on Saturday between 2pm and 4pm.
Council Leader Keith Walters said: "We want people to tell us what are their favourite services. But we are not abdicating our responsibilities; we will be making the final decision.
"We know that top of the heap is care for the elderly and primary and secondary education but what surprised me from our recent survey was that libraries and trading standards were well down the list.
"Cambridgeshire's growing population is putting huge pressure on all services especially social care. Our Government grant settlement doesn't take full account of this growth and quite simply there isn't sufficient money to go round.
"I hope people will take the opportunity to tell us which areas they feel should be priority for spending. These events are an important part of our budget consultation and we will listen to all views expressed to us."
Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Julian Huppert, said: "Cuts to children's services, cuts to adult social care, cuts to roads maintenance and to libraries - all this will hurt the more vulnerable people in our county particularly hard.
"To make matters even worse, because most of the cuts are one-off items, this just means that the county will have to find even more cuts next year, and in future years. It will take a long time to pay off the overspends the council's cabinet has racked up every year over the last few years."
The final decision on the budget and council tax rise will be made on February 20.