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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Cuts could cost Cumbria £200m and 1,700 jobs

Government spending cuts could end up costing Cumbria about £200 million and in excess of 1,700 jobs.

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Dr Les Tickner: ’Cynical timing by the Government’

More than £110m has been wiped off local authority budgets so far as Whitehall tightens its grip on grassroots government. And the pain shows no signs of easing as councils plan for the next three financial years. That, however, comes with a warning that frontline services could be affected as every area of work falls under the accountants’ microscope.

Dr Les Tickner, councillor in charge of finances at Carlisle City Council, said: “I always look at budgets like a tube of toothpaste – you can always squeeze a bit more.

“But we are at the stage where there is nothing much left and we are going to have to put something back in.”

The Cumberland News asked Cumbria County Council and six district authorities what the reduction in funding since 2010 has meant for them.

  • Cumbria County Council will have delivered £88m in savings by the end of the current financial year and has cut 742 jobs;
  • Carlisle City Council’s budget has been reduced by £4,538,000 by the end of the current financial year and there has been a reduction in staff numbers by the equivalent of 111 full-time posts;
  • Eden council’s budget will have been reduced by £1,153,000 by 2014/15 and has shed the equivalent of 20 full-time posts;
  • Allerdale council’s budget will have been reduced by £1,771,471 by the end of the current financial year with 29 jobs lost;
  • Copeland council’s budget will have been cut by around £5m by 2015/16 with around 90 jobs lost;
  • South Lakeland council’s budget will have been reduced by £4,491,530 by the end of the current financial with 34 redundancies;
  • Barrow council’s budget will have been reduced by £4m by 2014/15 with the loss of 85 jobs – including five senior management posts;

This adds up to a total reduction of about £108,954,001 and around 1,111 redundancies.

According to the office of Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner in 2010/11 the county’s police budget was £103,088,000 and for the current financial year it has fallen to £98,771,000 – a cut of £4,317,000.

On top of the £80m saved in the next financial year, the county council must save another £80m in the next three. Further job losses as a result of that are expected to be in excess of 600.

Talks about how up to £40m of that might be shaved out of the finances are underway.

Jo Stephenson, the county council’s deputy leader and cabinet member responsible for resources, said: “The reduction in funding to local authorities means we will have one pound in every four less to spend by 2017.”

Even if every penny of the proposals being consulted on currently was to go through, that would leave the county with £40m still to find.

“Therefore we will have to be even more efficient, creative and focused on core priorities in 2015/16 and 2016/17,” Mr Stephenson added.

“This is a time for tough decisions, and making difficult choices about what is really important. We must remember what we aren’t cutting back on – protecting what we consider to be the most vital services and the most vulnerable service users.”

He said that cutting the funding for fixing potholes was not being proposed and, instead, the authority would be investing more in the area’s highways.

“Much closer working with the NHS will help us to deliver better outcomes for service users and deliver better value for the Cumbrian pound,” he said.

Carlisle City Council says the total savings made by the authority were due to increase to £5,973,000 by 2015/16 – a 30 per cent cut in funding.

An Eden spokesman said that savings had already been made in numerous ways including savings on long-term leisure, recycling and municipal contracts as well as redundancies.

He added: “The council’s draft medium-term financial plan shows the council’s budget as broadly balanced in 2014/15 and 2015/16 and no further staff reductions are currently planned.

“There are no other specific savings plans though, as always, the council will be seeking to deliver services in the most cost effective way.”

An Allerdale spokeswoman said that it was likely that further redundancies could be made over the next three financial years.

A spokesman for Copeland said: “Job cuts over the last three years have totalled around 90. We can’t at this stage say how many there will be over the next three years, but we can say that we expect there to be more.”

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