TRAFFIC wardens could soon be patrolling Halton in an effort by the council to raise cash.

The plans are part of a drastic Halton Council restructure which could also see it no longer providing school catering services, as well as axing children’s day care centres to help plug a £25m funding black hole.

Branded ‘Reimagining Halton’, the proposed restructuring programme is set to take place over a three-year period and would see a range of cuts and changes to services aimed at reducing a major gap in its finances. The changes are likely to go hand-in-hand with a maximum increase in council tax of almost 5 per cent.

The authority’s ruling Cabinet is set to rubber-stamp the programme on Thursday, which will then have to go before a vote of Full Council before being passed.

Among the proposals are:

  • Closure of Ditton and Warrington Road Daycare Centres. They opened in 2004 as part of government policy to provide childcare for youngsters under five. They operate on the site of nurseries which are not affected by this proposal. The council says both make losses and that sufficient alternative provision exists nearby, as well as at the adjoining nursery schools.
  • No longer delivering the school meals service in two years, which the council says has made losses of more than £200,000 for a ‘number of years’. Work would be undertaken with schools to support them finding alternative means of delivery, either in-house or with an external provider.
  • Increasing the price of meals on wheels services.
  • Selling Ingleifled children’s home in Runcorn with the intention of buying two bungalows.
  • Reducing the opening hours of Children's Centres.
  • Reviewing the operation of Windmill Hill Children's Centre, which the council said has potential to save on premises and staffing costs.
  • Scrapping funding for the Learning Disability Nursing Team. The service supports adults in Halton who have difficulties using mainstream adult health services because of a learning disability. The council said that because it is a health and not a council issue, the local Integrated Care Board would need to consider how it wants to provide this service.
  • Franchising out the concourse bars at the DCBL Stadium to an external operator. Catering services would remain as they are in other areas of the stadium and at the Brindley.
  • Considering introducing civil traffic enforcement for traffic violations. This would involve hiring private sector civil enforcement officers to issue fines and generate income. It would take 12 months to apply for powers from the Department For Transport and put the scheme in place. Halton does not currently have civil traffic enforcement, with penalties only being issued by private companies on private land, or by the police on public highways.
  • Reducing area forum grants – cash usually distributed to community projects - for one year to £50,000, this would then be reviewed.

The restructure itself would cost £7m, much of which will come from capital funding, cash which is usually earmarked for one off projects such as infrastructure.

A report said the council faces a funding gap of £25m over the next three years with £17m of that needing to be found in 2023/24. It said it has so far been able to stave off major changes by using cash reserves in order to buy time for a working group to make longer-term plans to save money, plans which involve the restructuring of services.

The report said: “The next phases of work will be to conduct detailed design on each project, engaging with members, partners and residents as necessary and to bring back the case for change for members’ approval before beginning implementation immediately thereafter.”