A COUNCIL leader has blasted the coalition Goverment's efforts to fix the economy by forcing local authorities to make further cuts.
Darlington Borough Council's cabinet met on Tuesday (February 19) to discuss the authority's budget for 2013/14.
Despite having already made cuts worth £20m since 2010, the council is being forced to find another £17m of savings, with £3m worth built into the draft budget for the coming financial year.
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Council leader Bill Dixon disputed an assertion in a report to members that further cuts could be made without affecting frontline services, at a time when hundreds of council staff face uncertainty over their jobs.
Efforts to identify the £14m of cuts needed over the financial years 2014/15 to 2016/17 are ongoing, with Coun Dixon urging the public to participate in a forthcoming widespread consultation exercise.
He said: “We will consult over the summer. This is a difficult budget at £3m (of cuts), but we have got to find another £14m. The real unfairness is that we were told to cut millions from our budget and we did it.
“This government has failed miserably with its spending cuts and has visited us again. So our reward for balancing the books is to be told we have to find even more cuts.
“You could not run a lunatic asylum under those rules.”
The budget, which includes a two per cent council tax rise for Darlington residents, has been approved in principle by the cabinet and will be put before the full council later this month.
Representatives from public service union Unison attended the meeting to speak on behalf of the council staff facing redundancy as a result of the cuts.
Bob Wood, from the union, said about 20 per cent of the council’s staff who don't work in schools had been lost in recent years.
He said: “We call on the council to encourage voluntary redundancy, rather than compulsory, to redeploy staff and to support those who are made redundant to find employment elsewhere.”
He stressed the importance of ensuring the process is handled correctly, saying failing to get it right would cost the council “money it cannot afford”.
Mr Wood added: “These cuts are disastrous for Darlington’s economy – hundreds of lost council jobs will have an impact on just about every business in the town.”