SOUTHEND’S residents are being offered a different solution to the town’s budget conundrum - and this one will cost just four pence a week more.

Opposition councillors have put forward an alternative proposal to the Tories’ approach for 2013/14, which would see free black bin bags saved, children centres spared cuts and Southend’s pier kept open during the winter.

The plan has already been endorsed by Southend Council’s financial chiefs ahead of a crunch meeting tonight, meaning the final decision will come down to straight vote in the chamber between the two budgets.

And while the suggested changes by the Independent, Liberal Democrat and Labour member would largely be funded by an increased rise in council tax - from 1.75 per cent under the Tories’ proposals to 1.95 per cent - the difference would amount to just four pence a week for a Band D taxpayer.

Opposition councillors argued the rise would be well worth it.

Graham Longley, Lib Dem leader, said: “We are talking about a very small increase, but the money it creates can do quite a lot.”

Martin Terry, spokesman for the Independent group, added: “I believe most people would spend four pence a week to save the sort of things we are proposing.”

The opposition has put forward seven suggested amendments to the Tories’ budget ahead of tonight’s meeting, plus one additional spending scheme.

Its plans have been rubber-stamped by Southend Council’s financial gurus, meaning the final decision will come down to straight vote in the chamber between the two budgets.

The authority needs to cut £10million over the next financial year to stay in the black.

However, with most departments already trimmed of any fat or wastage, the Tories’ suggestions of slashing some front-line services to save that money angered many residents when they were unveiled last month.

Ian Gilbert, Labour leader, was adamant the cuts had gone too far.

He said: “I think we all feel there are some things here that people will really miss if they disappear.

“If we can stop that, then we must try.”