As I mentioned last week I am a big fan of the LGIU briefings. One of the elements they provide is a useful summary of local stories regarding local government cuts in specific areas. A few months ago I started wondering whether the fact that these stories were in the briefing every day was inoculating me to their impact.
And so, in a moment of randomness, I decided to start saving any stories that related to cuts to local authority budgets. I only did it for a couple of months (October to December) but the below stories are from the key budget period as proposals tend to be shared with the public in the autumn time.
I recognise that these are also a limited selection of pieces from a smallish amount of councils and also are just one year’s announcements from a half decade of austerity but I hope that by presenting them in this way they demonstrate a pattern of cuts and some attached detail that perhaps hasn’t been presented in this way so far.
I’ve also included a couple of stories presenting the other side of the story – I guess the bureaucrat in me can’t stand to only present one side of the argument!
I’m not sure if this is interesting or helpful but I find seeing the reality of the cuts around the country a useful reminder of the reality of the savings.
Birmingham to cut jobs
More than 6,000 jobs are to be cut at Birmingham City Council in the next three years, including over half of the posts at its new £189m library. By 2018 it expects its workforce to be down to 7,000 compared with 20,000 in 2010. Sir Albert Bore, council leader, said the authority had already been cut to the bone and was "now scraping away" at the bones themselves.
The Times, Page: 4 The Birmingham Post, Page: 3 The Guardian, Page: 3
Jobs at risk at Isle of Wight Council
According to the BBC, more than 150 jobs could be lost at Isle of Wight Council which is looking to reduce its net spending by £13.5m in the next financial year. The council said it would consider job sharing, reduced hours, flexible retirement, voluntary retirement and voluntary redundancy "to keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum".
Cornwall approves savings plan
Cornwall Council has approved a four-year budget strategy aimed at cutting spending by nearly £200m. The full 123-seat council approved the strategy, designed to save £196m between 2015-2019, on Tuesday. The cabinet previously said the council had to make cuts as government spending squeezes were continuing and demand for services was growing.
Cardiff Council plans consultation
Cardiff Council is planning to consult with the public on proposals to save more than £48m. The seven week consultation begins today and lasts until January 12. The council is considering axing jobs, cutting leisure and park services, and ending funding for the city’s New Year celebration.
Cardiff council warned of “devastating” cuts
Unison has warned Cardiff council that the £32m in cuts it has planned will have “devastating consequences”, and has refused to rule out industrial action. Regional organiser Steve Belcher said: "It's never something we would wish for but ultimately sometimes it's something we have to look at", but stressed that the union has not yet given up on a deal. Cardiff is trying to plug a £48m budget shortfall; it is aiming to make £5m savings through over 20 potential redundancies, along with £7.9m trimmed from the health and social care budget.
Councils build up reserves of £2.3bn
According to analysis conducted by the FT, England’s councils have built up extra reserves of £2.3bn in the last financial year despite the coalition's austerity programme. The paper says local authorities have saved money partly through the loss of half a million staff since 2010 - about a sixth of the total - in contrast to minimal net job losses in central government. Before the last financial year England's 444 local authorities predicted they would have to eat into their reserves by £1.2bn. Instead they increased their total reserves by £2.3bn to £23.7bn in the 12 months to last April, according to data from the DCLG. Communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “Local authorities should of course maintain a healthy cushion when balancing the books, but such substantial reserves are completely unnecessary. They should be tapped into to protect frontline services." A separate article in the same paper details the cuts Harrow council has made since 2010-11. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that the Treasury has asked senior officials at Whitehall to draw up details of how an extra £25-£30bn in public spending cuts could be imposed a year after the next general election.
Lancashire must make extra savings of £15m
Lancashire County Council has said it must make an extra £15m of savings because of increased costs and demand on services.
Services at risk
Libraries, parks and leisure centres could come under threat as councils are forced to consider unprecedented cuts to prevent the elderly care system collapsing, according to a study by the Local Government Association. An analysis of council budgets concludes that the amount of cash available for services other than adult social care and bin collection will fall by almost half by the end of this decade, as local authorities attempt to keep up with the needs of an ageing population. The LGA study predicts a £4.3bn black hole in social care budgets. The report estimates that the projected shortfall is the equivalent of almost a third of the current budget for adult social care in England. It predicts that the effects could be felt as early as next year when basic services may have to be "scaled back significantly" as councils try to balance the books while implementing reforms of the care system. The study calculates that local authorities have seen their overall funding effectively reduced by 40% since the beginning of the austerity measures in 2010.
Dorset council merge could save £6m
If West Dorset DC, North Dorset DC, Weymouth BC and Portland BC were to merge – as proposed – and share one executive and senior management team, up to £6m could be saved, according to the BBC.
Jobs and services at risk
The BBC reports that Cumbria County Council is considering cutting 1,800 jobs over the next three years as it looks to make savings of £83m. Meanwhile, Coventry City Council has warned of “unprecedented” cuts to services as it attempts to tackle a predicted £65m budget shortfall by 2018. The council expects to publish detailed plans of how jobs and services will be affected, later this year. Finally, Birmingham City Council has said that pest control and school crossing services may be cut as it looks to make £150m of savings in the next financial year.
Council jobs at risk
The BBC reveals that a number of councils are considering making job cuts to save money. Dudley Council has warned it could cut 300 jobs as it looks to save £57m over the next three years; Calderdale Council will cut up to 200 jobs by 2016 in a bid to save £40m; and more than 200 jobs could be lost at Middlesbrough Council next year as it attempts to axe £14m from its budget.
Gwynedd moves to three-weekly bin collection
The Mail reports that households in Gwynedd yesterday became the first in Wales to have some of their bins emptied on a three-weekly basis. Gwynedd Council approved the plan in April and claimed that the move would save it £350,000 a year as well as reducing landfill waste and encouraging recycling. Only general household rubbish is being switched to three-weekly collection. Food waste and recyclable products will still be collected weekly.
Daily Mail, Page: 27
Residents consulted on spending plans
Residents arebeing asked to take part in an online survey on priorities as East Riding Council plans further cost-cutting to save £54m in the next four years. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that Durham County Council has devised a game for residents to play at public consultations. Designed to mimic the Monopoly board, the game is about cutting rather than spending money, and encourages players to find £100m-worth of savings to council services out of the budget of £400m.
Senior posts to be cut
The BBC reports that Lancashire County Council plans to cut more than 150 senior jobs in a bid to save money. The 157 posts, up to executive director level, will save the council £11.4m each year as part of its staff restructuring programme. The council says it has to save £300m over the next four years because of central government budget cuts.