Newbury Weekly News

newburytoday q Thursday October 20, 2016, 80p

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Another big decrease in government funding more cuts until 2020 Council hit by £22.4m

What was the mystery boom over Thatcham? A HUGE boom startled residents in Thatcham on Sunday evening. The noise caused some residents to run into the street to see what was going on. But what exactly was it? See page 2 for more. The public, who councillors are looking to rely on to keep the service going, will then have their say. This is in light of council-hired consultants finding that staffing costs in the district are too high. Library staff also said that councillors “did not know enough or care about” their work and that “no thought” was put into the decision to close libraries. See page 4 for more. Cobbs Farm Shop the star at business awards MORE than 200 people gathered at Newbury Racecourse on Friday to raise a toast to the best businesses in the district as the West Berkshire Business Awards returned for a fourth year. It was a night to remember for Hungerford’s Cobbs Farm Shop & Kitchen, which took away two awards, including Business of the Year. This year’s event was sponsored by the Plan for volunteers to run branch libraries WEST Berkshire’s libraries are to undergo a dramatic transformation which could see volunteers taking on the roles of axed staff. All library staff outside of Newbury could be made redundant as West Berkshire Council attempts to cut £690,000 from its library budget. Now the council is looking to “harness the goodwill and enthusiasm” of volunteers, such as campaigners who protested against its proposals to close eight of the district’s nine libraries, to save the service. Three options over the future of the highly-valued service will be put before influential councillors at a meeting tonight (Thursday).

IT’S not the news that those impacted by this year’s brutal £17.5m cuts to public services will want to hear – but West Berkshire Council needs to find a further £22.4m of savings by 2020. This year saw council tax rise by the maximum four per cent, children’s centres close and funding for disabled children cut – while there is still uncer- tainty about the future of the district’s library service. But the worst isn’t over and, once again, all options are being considered as the council looks to plug a massive reduction in government funding over the next three years. Last week, at a special meeting, coun- cillors approved an efficiency plan in order to accept the Government’s four- year financial settlement which will signal the next set of cuts. The efficiency plan had to be published on the council’s website by October 14 – last Friday – in order for it to accept the settlement. The council says that, by accepting the settlement, it gives it stability in knowing what funding reductions to expect in the coming years. However, it admits that it doesn’t actually know what details the Govern- ment is expecting it to include in the

Report by DAN COOPER email twitter @danc_nwn

efficiency plan, which has led to fears it could be rejected. The council also announced details of a joint venture with Greenham Common Trust – a multi-million pound property scheme to bring in extra money for both organisations (see page two for more). At the meeting, Anthony Chadley, the council’s executive member for finance, said: “In accepting the four-year plan, we say to central Government we expect 100 per cent business rates retention. “If we can do this, we will be one of the few authorities that will be totally self-sustainable. “It also gives us the opportunity and freedom to focus on our efficiency plan, and more importantly on other sources of income.” Alan Macro, leader of the West Berk- shire opposition Liberal Democrat group, said: “I quite accept the four- year stability, it’s very good considering what’s happened in the last 12 months. “I’mwondering why we’ve left things to the very last minute when we knew from March that this was a requirement.” n Continued on page 5

Contractor dies at IKEA POLICE are investigating after a contractor died at IKEA Reading yesterday (Wednesday). A police investigation into the cause of death has been launched. priority and we are now supporting the Thames Valley Police with their investi- gation. Staff turn drivers away from IKEA which closed after a workman died yesterda y Ref: 42-1916M

“The store will remain closed this morning. Our thoughts are with the individual’s family at this time.” Police and fire crews were also called to the scene just after 2.30am. A spokesman for Thames Valley Police, Jack Abell, said: “We attended the scene, where sadly a man had died. No arrests have been made. “Officers remain at the site while an investigation is carried out, and the store is currently closed.” At the time the Newbury Weekly News went to press, the store was still closed.

However, a spokesman for the South Central Ambulance Service confirmed that a contractor had died in a ‘work- based accident’. Deputy retail manager, IKEA UK and Ireland, Javier Quinones, said: “We are very saddened to confirm that this morning, 19th October, a contractor died in an incident on our site in Read- ing. “The safety and security of everyone on our premises is always our highest

Newbury Weekly News . See page 10 for more.

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