LANCASHIRE county council’s cabinet today approved £65m cuts to council services. The decision means consultations will start immediately on job losses and service restructures
If given the final go ahead at next February’s full council budget meeting, the cuts will bite over the next two years.
Deputy Council leader Coun. David Borrow said the unusual timing - budgets are normally agreed in February, was necessary so that if voted through then necessary statutory consultations would already have been carried out and economies could be made (in the new financial year) without further delays.
The ruling Labour group,which governs with the support of the Liberal Democrats, says it has had no alternative but to push through the economies because of central Government funding cuts. It says it will still have a£262m funding gap by April 2020.
The latest cuts will cost the equivalent of 367 full time jobs and include closing 40 libraries, withdrawing funding from five museums, axing of £7.5m bus service subsidies and £2.8m reductions in the highways budget.cuts to subsidies for transport to faith schools as well as a major shake-up in the way the council delivers its remaining services.
Council leader County Coun. Jennifer Mein said afterwards:“The decisions we have taken are heartbreaking but reflect the unprecedented financial situation we face...We will do all that we can to protect the vulnerable but these are very difficult times.”
Coun. Borrow added:“It is impossible to overstate the seriousness of our financial situation. The plans approved today are striking but they represent less than a quarter of the savings we have to find by 2020. We have to spend our reserves,... And we know that we will still face a shortfall of £56m in 2018/19.”
Conservative councillor Susie Charles made a special plea that the needs of rural communities must not be forgotten.
Coun. Mein said the council’s priority was to help the most deprived communities wherever they live. She also warned that this week’s Government announcement that the Council could levy an extra 2% in Council Tax to fund social care would not meet the predicted shortfall on funding social care in the county.
Some 1100 staff have left the authority since January 2014 taking voluntary redundancy. The council had already planned for an additional loss of more than 500 full time equivalent posts by 2017/18. It says between 2011 and 2020 it will have to have delivered savings of £685m.