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Councils face severe spending cuts following reduction in Government grant
FRONTLINE council services are under a fresh threat of cuts as bosses grapple with a major reduction in Government grant.
City of York Council’s chief executive Kersten England said she expected the authority’s grant to be reduced by 9.7 per cent, or £5.7 million, in 2014/15, followed by another 13.6 per cent cut in 2015/16 – which she said were worse than the national average.
By comparison with other authorities, York had so far maintained most services despite previous grant cuts, achieving savings mostly through efficiencies and back office and management reductions, she said.
But, speaking after Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement, Ms England warned: “We – and all of local government – will face the toughest year yet when it comes to questions being raised about whether to continue to deliver certain services and if we do, how we deliver them, given the scale of reduction to our funding from central government.
“All councils are having to consider finding radically different ways to deliver services at lower costs or they will be making significant cuts to services in the next two financial years.”
Council leader James Alexander said previous funding cuts had already led to the removal of salt bins, ending of the toy library bus and less gritting of roads. “This further reduction will be even more challenging and have a further impact on front-line services,” he said.
North Yorkshire County Council leader John Weighell said it faced an ‘extremely difficult and challenging predicament’ and major savings would be required. He warned that a rise in council tax – the first in four years – could be necessary.
The announcement confirmed the council would have to find a further £77 million in savings over the next four years, he said, representing a cut in its spending power of more than a third over an eight year period. He added the council’s financial strategy for 2014/15 was based on a rise in council tax of two per cent.
Without that, it would have to find a further £2.3 million in savings, in addition to those already planned.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council said it would need to make budget savings of about £72 million over the next four years.
A spokesman said its financial strategy for several years had been to plan ahead, achieving savings and putting money aside to cushion the impact of anticipated future Government cuts, focusing on different ways to deliver services, better use of technology and buildings, and more cost-effective procurement of goods and services, and this strategy would continue.
Local government minister Brandon Lewis said councils in England were facing a 2.9 per cent cut in overall Government funding for 2014/15, leaving them with “considerable total spending power” of £2,089 per dwelling and giving them the stability and certainty needed to plan budgets and “move ahead with transforming local services and ongoing efficiency.”
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