AHEAD of a discussion that could shape public services in Darlington for the next four years, a senior cabinet member has admitted: “We have not got all the answers”.
Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet will discuss the authority's medium term financial plan (MTFP) for the coming financial year to 2016/17 at a special meeting, needing to identify savings of £17m in that time – ahead of the £24m in cuts it has already made since 2010.
Councillor Chris McEwan, cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said: “It is an extremely challenging situation.
“Public services in Darlington, in the short and medium term, will never look the same again.
“What we must do – and this is critical – is do what we can to protect vulnerable people and keep what we can.
“That will be difficult and require a number of difficult choices to be made.
“We have not got all the answers and it is incumbent on us [as a council] to have a dialogue with the people of this town about how we take things forward.”
Cabinet members are being asked to approve a raft of measures, including the MTFP itself and a budget to include:
• A two per cent council tax increase for 2013/14;
• The use of nearly £4m from revenue balances to fund the savings required in the coming financial year;
• The transferring of £1.5m from revenue balances to the redundancy reserve fund.
The cabinet will also be asked to receive a report on ways to cut the costs of how the council operates at a future meeting, as well as approving the approach to developing further cuts.
Last week, when the report on the MTFP was published, council officials warned that nothing was safe from the axe.
Since then dozens of people have commented on the issue on The Northern Echo’s website.
Gamechanger wrote: “We all need to tell our councillors and our MPs that playing politics with our lives and our communities has got to stop.”
1234user added: “It is all too easy to blame 'the government' for the cuts.”
The cabinet meets at 5pm, tomorrow, at the town hall.