THERE have been 700 respondents to the public consultation on potential cuts to Caerphilly council’s budget, a special cabinet meeting was told last night.

Caerphilly council has to make savings of £14.53m in 2014/15 as a result of the UK Government’s austerity measures, with further additional savings of £6.54m for 2015/16 and £7.06m for 2016/17, amounting to £28.13m over the next three years.

Members did not discuss the payments to chief officers to ‘buy out’ their entitlements to essential car use and annual leave allowances, despite a damning Wales Audit Office published on the same day concluding they were unlawful.

But the budget strategy report was discussed by members, and detailed a proposal for the next stage of the consultation period in respect of the budget for 2014/15 and the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP). The council has launched a public consultation, which closes today, to encourage residents to have their say about the £28m savings.

Nicole Scammell, the author of the report, said 94.6 per cent of respondents said they understood why the authority needed to make cuts, while 88 per cent recognised the need to review other, “less important services”.

At last night’s meeting, members noted the report and voted in support of the approach being taken to focus on a “more manageable list of savings to facilitate more effective consultation”.

Stuart Rosser, the council’s interim chief executive, said the list of potential savings was more than likely to change by the end of January. Under the proposals outlined in the report, the biggest cut of 4.9m falls under the “corporate nature” category for the whole authority, which includes a casual mileage rate reduction from 55p to 45p to all members of staff.

Elsewhere, proposals under social services include an increase charge for Meals on Wheels service by £1 per meal to £3.35, which will save around £80,000 in 2014/15, while a potential £50,000 of cuts to school and college transport could be made.

A review of the number of social workers could potentially save £219,000, and a possible review of leisure centre provision, including closures, could save £20,000. The report also says the savings proposals will impact on staffing due to a “severe period of austerity”.

But a council spokesman emphasised that this is not a definitive list, and no final decision will be made until February. A final draft budget will be presented to a cabinet meeting on January 29.