£18m to be saved in Northumberland service cuts
Dec 7 2010 by David Black, The Journal
SPENDING on services for elderly people and children in Northumberland is set to be slashed by more than £18m next year – but that might still be nowhere near enough to achieve the massive cuts required by the county council.
County Hall officials have drawn up an initial package of savings totalling £36.1m for 2011/12 – with £10.4m to come from children’s services and £8.1m from adult services.
However, with the final savings target estimated at anything up to £60.5m, that could still leave another £24.4m to be found in order to set a budget.
A new report which went before county councillors yesterday said the savings required next year are likely to be between £43.4m and £60.5m. That will be the start of a four-year cost-cutting programme which will eventually see the unitary authority’s budget reduced by more than £100m.
It comes on top of £51m worth of savings which have been made since the new council was set up two years ago.
Council bosses have already warned that cuts required by the coalition Government this year and next will lead to more than 1,000 posts being axed.
The report which went before members of the Liberal Democrat executive yesterday said the latest challenge facing the authority is “of a different order of magnitude” to previous ones – and traditional cost reduction measures are unlikely to deliver the savings required.
The authority will not know the exact level of cuts required until later this month, when the Government announces its grant settlement and decides whether it will be allowed to borrow money to pay for massive redundancy costs.
The initial £36.1m cuts package also proposes slashing £5.3m from regeneration and public protection, £3.2m from the transformation agenda, £6.8m from local services and £2m from finance.
It includes cutting the Supporting People programme by £1.5m, increasing charges for non-residential care of the elderly (£600,000), reviewing individual care packages (£1.5m), youth service cuts (£350,000), less support for disabled children (£193,000) and reducing the educational psychology service (£400,000).
Other measures include axing a mobile library van (£50,000), cutting the budget for home to school transport (£50,000), ending all flower and shrub planting across the county (£370,000) and removing a number of fire service station manager and watch manager posts (£345,000).
Yesterday executive member for corporate resources, Andrew Tebbutt, said it was an “unprecedented” situation for the council. “We have some very tough decisions and when we come to consider them we have to think about what the alternatives are, because they might be even less palatable.”
Last night Conservative group leader, Peter Jackson, said he was still convinced more could be done to cut central management and administration costs, before hitting front line services.
He said he has serious concerns about proposed cuts to capital spending on roads, and on services for elderly people and youngsters. “We have not been able to assess the details yet but these are real cuts to front line services.
“There is not enough of a strategic overview here. We identified £6m savings this year in central administration costs. The council has achieved £1.5m through a senior management review, so we feel there is scope for a further £4.5m in that area.”
A special meeting of the executive will now be held just before Christmas when the authority will have a clearer picture of the extent of the budget cuts it has to make.