'Nothing sacred' as Darlington and Durham councils face more multi-million pound cuts (From The Northern Echo)
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'Nothing sacred' as Darlington and Durham councils face more multi-million pound cuts
COUNCILS could be left providing only the services they are obliged to by law, the leader of one authority facing further multi-million pound cuts has warned.
As Durham County Council announced its cutbacks look set to top £200m by 2018, neighbouring Darlington Borough Council revealed it would have to find further savings totalling £17.3m over the next four years.
More than £24.4m worth of savings are already planned by the Labour-run authority, but its financial plan up to 2017, released yesterday, (Tuesday, January 8) shows that even more will need to be done to balance the books.
Those cut-backs will mean the reduction, or in some cases, the closure of services and Darlington's chief executive, Ada Burns, said nothing was safe from the axe.
"Absolutely nothing is sacred and nothing is off-limits," she warned.
The council has identified £3m of savings by making its operations more efficient, but that still leaves £14.3m left to find.
The figures will be discussed at a special meeting of the cabinet next Tuesday (January 15) before the 2013/14 budget is set by the council at the end of next month.
Council leader, Bill Dixon said the reductions, which follow the loss of £10.1m in Government grants over the next two years, were severe and might spell the end of services "the public takes for granted".
He said the worse-case scenario was "that we literally provide nothing more than the statutory services - adult social care, childrens' social care and an element of highways and refuse collection."
“We have only just received our Government grant settlement for the next two years and the reductions are severe," Coun Dixon added.
“We may have to stop many of the services the public takes for granted; it is going to be very challenging.
“We will be undertaking detailed reviews over the coming months, leading to full public consultation later in the year.
“When we start consultation, I hope everyone gets involved, as the decisions we need to make will shape Darlington in the future.”
In Durham, finance chiefs still cannot say where more than £50m-worth of its £200m savings will hit.
In December, the Government cut the council’s spending power by 1.4 per cent for the next financial year and 4.6 per cent for the year after.
Next week (January 16), County Hall bosses will tell councillors that the authority’s overall budget will plummet by nearly £190m between 2011 and 2017 – and this is likely to top £200m by 2018.
Within those total figures, £20.9m will have to be cut in 2013-14 (£2.4m less than forecast) and £27.9m in 2014-15 (£1.9m more than forecast).
More than £90m has already been cut. However, for 2014 to 2017, savings of £53.1m are still to be identified.
The council says there is a high level of public satisfaction with how it has managed the cuts so far.
Forty per cent of residents felt switching to fortnightly bin collections, which it is hoped will save £2m a year, had had a positive impact on them, it said.
However, independent councillor John Shuttleworth, knowing around 1,600 jobs are being cut, said: “It’s all the ordinary working man, who produces something, going, yet the very senior managers stay in place. If we’re having cuts, they should be across the board.”
A report on the latest calculations will be presented to the council’s cabinet at Crook Civic Centre next Wednesday. it is expected to agree its budget for the year ahead on Wednesday, February 20.
Meanwhile, Redcar and Cleveland Council moved a step closer to a two per cent council tax rise - coupled with £4.4m cuts this week, while North Yorkshire County Council is facing a 14 per cent reduction in spending power in 2013/14.
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