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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Frontline services will be protected despite Government funding cut, says Cumbria council leader

Frontline services and vulnerable people will be protected despite more cuts in Government funding, Cumbria County Council’s leader has pledged.

Ministers have announced that grant funding to the authority will be cut by two per cent next year – with councils across England facing an average reduction of 1.7 per cent.

This is the money government provides to go alongside what is raised through council tax and accounts for a large slice of council budgets. Cumbria county’s core formula grant will be £134.4 million next year.

Leader Eddie Martin said he was committed to protecting services for the vulnerable people, the elderly and children.

He added: “Those are the most important people in our community. We’ve got to look after them.”

The leader said that so far the authority had managed to save £64m from a total budget of about £400m and the new cut represented further savings of about £21m.

“That is £85 million less spending by Cumbria County Council,” he said.

He added that the council’s budget would be decided in February and people would have a say in whether or not to raise council tax rates.

“There is an argument for and a argument against. If people are not getting pay rises the argument is not to put up council tax,” Mr Martin added.

Mr Martin said that he understood why the cuts had to be made and added: “The Government is between a rock and a hard place – whether we like it, or not, the country over the years has maxed out its credit card. We have overspent ridiculously. The question is whether local government should take the lion’s share of the cuts.”

He said that Cumbria had managed to accommodate the cuts without seriously affecting frontline services. “Nearly 800 people were made redundant and I expect there are more redundancies to come,” he said.

“It’s going to be tough but I don’t see what the alternative is.”

A number of other authorities fared better with an extra funding boost with Carlisle City Council to get an 0.8 per cent increase, Eden a 0.4 per cent rise and Allerdale’s goes up by 0.2 per cent.

But their grants are much smaller. Carlisle’s core grant is £6.2m, Allerdale’s £7.0m and Eden’s £3.2m.

He said: “This settlement recognises the responsibility of local government to fund sensible savings and make better use of resources.”

Councillor Les Tickner, Carlisle Council’s finance portfolio holder, said it was still early days and added: “The level of detail hasn’t been provided yet to enable us to make an informed view.”

The city council’s budget is currently out for consultation with a proposed freeze in council tax rates and it is due to be decided by full council in February.

The ruling executive this week agreed a draft 2013/2014 budget – the tougher budget comes in the wake of Government cuts and austerity measures.

Any comments received in the consultation process will be considered as part of the ongoing budget process and will be assessed by the Executive at its meeting next month.

For further information visit www.carlisle.gov.uk/budgetconsultation

Comments need to be sent to The Chief Executive, Carlisle City Council, Civic Centre, Carlisle, CA3 8QG by 9am on Monday, January 14.

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