September 26th, 2016

Cuts may change councils’ future

Cuts may change councils’ future Cuts may change councils’ future
Updated: 9:42 am, May 07, 2015

COUNCIL services could have to be provided without any government funding in future years if cuts to local government continue.

Jayne Pickering, executive director of finance and resources on Redditch Borough Council, said the view amongst senior council officers throughout local government following the Autumn Statement was by 2019/2020 local authorities may be ‘self-sufficient’.

The council already raises a significant portion of its income itself through council tax and fees and charges for various services on top of a grant from the Government. But that grant has been cut over the last four years from by some £2.6million – about 52 per cent – and is expected to fall by at least another £500,000 in 2015/16 when details of the funding settlement are released this month.

Following last month’s Autumn Statement it was revealed 60 per cent of public spending cuts will have to be made post next year’s General Election and local government is likely to be hit as it is an area none of the main political parties is pledging to protect.

But council leader Bill Hartnett said without major reform he doubted the council could fund itself entirely.

“We would need to keep more of the business rates we collect but have to hand over to central government and be able to raise more money locally but without severe changes to current legislation I don’t see how we could do it without government grant.” he said.

The council is currently producing a three year financial plan through to 2017/18 which will be presented to councillors in February but still have £1million of savings to find during the period before the books are balanced.

The plan includes a 2.2 per cent pay rise for staff, in line with the national agreement, in 2015/16 while it is also assumed council tax will rise by 1.9 per cent in each year.

It also includes plans to save more than £500,000 from further transforming the way services are run, including a potential saving of £195,000 from changing the way leisure services are provided.

Earlier this year the council was criticised by external auditors Grant Thornton for a lack of financial resilience and for not having a three year medium-term plan.

But Ms Pickering said they were committed to having a sustainable, balanced budget to present to councillors in February and auditors were now comfortable with their approach.

“We are not saying we are going to have nailed down all the detail about how we are going to go about putting those savings in place but what we will be clear about is where they are going to come from.” she told an executive committee meeting on Tuesday (December 16).

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