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New £22m blow for North Yorkshire
ANOTHER £22 million of cuts may need to be made to public services in North Yorkshire due to continuing funding problems, council bosses have warned.
North Yorkshire County Council says the extra savings will be on top of cuts of around £69m already announced.
Ministers have asked all councils to freeze council tax for a further year, in exchange for a grant equivalent to a tax rise of one per cent.
Combined with additional funding cuts from central Government, it means that if North Yorkshire decides to accept the grant, it will have a funding gap of £21.8m to bridge over the next two years – as well as the cutbacks already agreed as part of its original savings package.
Coun John Weighell, the council’s leader, said: “Our original task of finding £69m in savings posed very considerable challenges.
“If we now have to find almost a third as much again, then clearly the challenge will be even greater. This is compounded by the timing of the Government’s announcement, as we expect this will only be confirmed in January, just a few months before we need to be making the savings.”
The council has already drawn up plans for saving £8m in the year beginning next April. If it accepts the Government’s tax freeze grant, it is estimated it will have to find a further £13.4m, a council spokesman said.
The following year, the amount to be saved will rise from £8m to an estimated £16.4m.
Coun Geoff Webber, leader of the local Liberal Democrats, said: “Regardless of party, we are extremely concerned about further cuts. It’s really starting to affect essential services. We have trimmed libraries, trimmed highways and it’s difficult to know where we will make further cuts without really impacting on what we offer to the public.
“I have no magic formula. I think we are going to have to start looking at our discretionary services and which we can afford to maintain at all.”
Frontline services to have been hit so far include public transport, libraries, the schools music service, and outdoor education.
Cuts have seen the number of council departments cut and the number of posts reduced by almost 1,000, or eight per cent of the workforce over the past two years.
Half of the original £69m savings comes from reduced “back-office” administration costs, the council said, such as job cuts and contracts, and £2 million has been saved from staff terms and conditions such as overtime and two days obligatory unpaid holiday.
A pay freeze has been imposed for three years on all staff and four years for most senior managers.
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