Age of austerity ‘like the 1930s’

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Council bosses have warned we are in times of austerity ‘the likes of which have not been seen since the 1930s’.

Setting out Lancashire County Council’s budget for the coming year, county treasurer Gill Kilpatrick said the authority was ‘on track’ to achieve three-year savings of £220m.

'Challenge': County treasurer Gill Kilpatrick

'Challenge': County treasurer Gill Kilpatrick

But she warned the authority was on course for another ‘significant challenge’ over the next four years as they faced having to make further savings of £250m.

At a meeting of the authority’s cabinet yesterday, the group still vowed to press ahead with plans to freeze council tax for the next year, a move which will need to be signed off by full council on February 21.

County treasurer Gill Kilpatrick said: “I think it is fair to say that this year’s budget has been characterised by a great deal of uncertainty.

“Local government is going through a period of austerity the likes of which we have not seen since the 1930s.

“Those scholars of history could give you some background on what that meant for local government back then.

“It is not just about seeing our funding going down, as with everything else our costs also increase.”

If given the go-ahead, 
provision has been made for a one per cent pay rise for staff.

The council will also receive a total of £1.4m in New Homes Bonus, the second highest in the country.

Council bosses say services have been ‘largely protected’ over the last three years as savings were found through reducing the costs of management and bureaucracy.

But they said this could not continue, with the expectation the council would need to ‘significantly downsize’ to achieve more savings.

In a report to councillors, Gill Kilpatrick said: “While the opportunity remains to reduce costs through efficiencies, reductions in bureaucracy, shared services, partnership working and invest to save projects, these will not equate to anywhere near £250m.

“This is more than simply setting a budget the council can afford in 2013/14. It is about recognising the scale of the challenge to come.”

Council leader Geoff Driver said: “It continues to be a very tough period for the economy and we have made provision to freeze council tax again this year to avoid putting household budgets under any extra pressure.

“Staff are working hard to deliver the budget plan and, although it hasn’t been easy for them either, they can move into 2013 with certainty about what needs to be done.”