Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Lancashire County Council to make £142million of cuts - End of LCC as it stands now


COUNTY council services are set for unprecedented cuts of up to £142 million after bosses revealed a massive financial black hole.

The worst-case scenario figures represents 20 per cent of Lancashire’s budget. The best case would still see £79million of spending slashed.

The shocking deficit was revealed in a council report which says the cuts are needed to balance the books over the next four years.

County Council leader Geoff Driver admitted ‘reductions in some services’ would be inevitable.

Unions have warned of heavy job losses.

Tory Coun Driver pledged to protect frontline spending on roads, and looking after vulnerable children and adults. All other areas are being looked at.

Critics have warned of “dire consequences” and “serious cutbacks” in services.

Coun Driver, who won control of the county council in June after almost 30 years of Labour control, said no decisions had yet been made on where the axe would fall in the future years.

But he admitted: “I am not going to try and pretend we can find this kind of money just through efficiency savings.”

Except in Blackburn with Darwen - where bosses will face their own budget headache from 2011/12 - the county council controls services including highways, libraries and museums, social services and waste disposal.

The Tories will now have to decide which areas of spending they want to protect and where services could be cut.

Their first task will be to find £16million in savings by February in order to achieve a zero per cent council tax increase in 2010/11, a key election pledge by the Tories, which was re-iterated by leader David Cameron on campaigning visits to Lancashire.

Labour leader Jennifer Mein said: “Going for a zero per cent council tax increase was a vote winner, and they are paying the price.

“They will live to regret it.”

But Coun Driver said: “We are delivering what we promised, and what we believe the people of Lancashire want in the middle of a recession.”

The current three-year Government grant cycle runs out in 2011, so council bosses have no idea how much they will be given after that date.

But with public spending squeezes brought on by recession and an increase in government borrowing, it is expected to be considerably less than the 5.3per cent increase the county was given last time around.

A report to be presented to the ruling cabinet next week presents four potential outcomes depending on grants ranging from a two per cent grant increase - which would mean a deficit of £79million - to a five per cent cut, leading to a potential £142million black hole.

The predictions assume a 2.5per cent increase in council tax every year from 2011/12. The Conservatives have promised to match this with funding to freeze residents’ bills if they win the next general election.

As well as Government funding fears, the £2billion private finance initiative contract for waste disposal will hit council tax bills in 2011, adding £42million to the budget and leading to a sudden spike in the savings needed.

Children’s services are also experiencing financial pressures, because of an increase in children being referred to social workers following the Baby P tragedy.

Burnley Council leader Gordon Birtwistle said: “It’s obviously going to be a dire situation for the people of Lancashire.

“We are going to have serious cutbacks in services delivered from County Hall.”

Coun Driver would not confirm whether jobs would be lost as part of the cost-saving drive, insisting it was too early to say.

But Unison rep Carol Lukey said: “The amounts being talked about and how they are going to save the money are a concern.

“I don’t see how they can achieve it without an impact on services.

"Everyone is worried. Nobody is under the illusion that local government is a job for life any more.”

Subject: Lancashire County Council budget - press release
Sent on behalf of Tim Seamans, Head of Communications.


Lancashire County Council set for cuts of up to £142m (From ..
COUNTY council services are set for unprecedented cuts of up to £142 million after bosses revealed a massive financial black hole.
www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/4559992.Lancs_County_Council_set_for_massive_cuts/... ·

SERVICES for young people and the elderly are to bear the brunt of more than £20million in budget cuts planned by Lancashire County Council next year.
www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/4820986.Lancashire_County_Council_cuts_revealed ·


Dear County Councillor Graham Jones

Please find below for information a statement we have issued to local media today, which will lead to information appearing in the media on Wednesday.

The statement follows initial analysis of the likely impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review, but highlights that our funding allocation will not be clear until an announcement by government on 2 December.

December the key date as county council seeks major savings

Lancashire County Council will not know until December the extent of the savings programme it has to deliver over the next four years - with the challenge expected to be much greater than had been forecast prior to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Council allocations will be announced on 2 December, with last week's Government review indicating likely savings requirements of around 26%.

For the county council, which employs 42,000 people, this would mean savings over the next 3 years of around £180m - although the actual figure could be lower or higher when it is announced in December.

The council had been anticipating a savings requirement of around £113m over the same period.

Leader of the county council, Geoff Driver, explains: "We can't plan accurately on the basis of the headline figures as the funding of local councils is complex and we expect some variation on the 26% when the detail is complete.

"It is going to be very tough whatever the outcome and we will not be able to address this scale of cuts without impacting on services and jobs. However, our priority will be to protect those services that are vital to the most vulnerable members of our communities.

"We will do everything we can to ensure we bring local services to people more efficiently, but every part of the organisation will need to be looked at to achieve the required level of savings.

"We are not happy about the reductions in Government grant but we recognise the serious financial situation and the need to eliminate the structural deficit in the nation's finances."

Cllr Driver is encouraging people to contribute their own ideas about where the county council should focus its spending in future and where savings can be made, or which services taxpayers would wish to see scaled back.

He explains: "We're elected to make decisions and will do that even when they are tough, but it's only right that people come to us and say if they have a good suggestion about improving efficiency and reducing our spending overall.

"We'll be inviting Lancashire residents to do this on an ongoing basis and invite people to email us or write with their views."

Members of the public are encouraged to send their views to value@lancashire.gov.uk or write to the Leader of the Council at County Hall, PO Box 78, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 8XJ.

The county council will not be in a position to confirm its spending plans for 2011-12 and beyond until funding allocations are known in detail, but anticipates radical change will be required.

Ged Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, says: "What is clear is that the county council, like the rest of the public sector, will have to become a very different organisation in a short space of time.

"We are a major employer and as such there will be implications in terms of jobs but, however much we need to save, we will look to voluntary redundancies and redeployment to tackle the challenge we face.

"Although the position we find ourselves in is extremely difficult we do have a talented and professional workforce who will, I know, strive to continue delivering the best services despite the climate we will be working in."