GIVE AND TAKE: Lancashire County Council to make Â£45m of cuts but more cash for some services
A massive programme of Â£45m of savings has been unveiled by Lancashire County Council.
But at the same time, bosses at the cash-strapped authority are pledging to invest more money in buses, road repairs and social services.
More than 60 jobs could go as more than 30 services have been told to make savings.
County councillor and deputy leader of the Labour group John Fillis said the cuts, to be tabled at a review of service budgets on Thursday September 14, represented ‘broken promises” made by the Tory group.
He said: “This is a slap in the face for the public because they [the Conservatives] promised there would be no cuts – it was all down to financial management but here we are, financial failures.
“We told them there were massive cuts required because of the Tory Government austerity.
“They lambasted us over the cuts we had to make and here we are four or five months in.”
However the council says proposed savings are not expected to have a negative impact on front line service delivery, as they would come mainly from “efficiencies, recurrent under spends, income generation and service change”.
More than 60 jobs could go, but other new posts could be created as the council seeks to remodel services and generate more income.
The council says its broader financial position remains “extremely challenging”, as a combination of inflationary pressures and rising demand means it still faces a funding gap of £167m in 2021/22.
Leader of Lancashire County Council Council, Geoff Driver, said: “The county council’s financial situation is clearly extremely challenging and one of our key priorities is to create a more financially stable council that will enable us to future-proof our improvements to critical services for the most vulnerable in our communities.
“This detailed line-by-line review of all service budgets has identified significant savings and is a very helpful first step to putting the council’s finances on an even keel.
“Clearly we will need to make more savings in the future and we are working very hard to look at how we can do that in a way that allows us to protect front-line services.
“Every council in the country has to make decisions about how it uses its resources and we are absolutely committed to funding those services that we know people value, by reopening libraries, investing in good quality roads and local environments, and supporting bus services.”
Up to 48 full time equivalent jobs could go over the next three years with proposed changes to the council’s Learning Disability Service providing savings of £2.6m.
But new staff will be recruited on an invest to generate income basis for specific council services or as part of the remodelling of services.
Also some services will see increased funding. The council has announced plans to invest £1m in bus services and a £3m resurfacing programme for residential roads.
According to the Conservative group, options for the way forward include the council becoming more entrepreneurial, changing the way it finances pothole repairs and bringing some waste services in-house.
The economy proposals to be considered by cabinet also include reducing costs by £2.7m by borrowing to finance pothole repairs rather than spending from the council’s capital budget.
But Coun Fillis has warned that ‘borrowing costs more in the long term’.
He said: “They are kicking the can down the road. This will cost the council more and more money.”
Members of the public have also hit back at the announcement.
Weighing in on Facebook, Neil Coggins said: “Funny, when the Tories took control of Lancashire I could’ve sworn they said they’d reverse the cuts imposed by the Labour council.
“Seems they’re getting stung too. The only losers in this is the general public.”
Winter social care proposals unveiled as NHS warns of A&E crisis
As the NHS warns of a winter crisis in A&E departments, Lancashire County Council has unveiled its own winter social care plans.
The council has allocated £720,000 of extra funds to boost social care over the winter months.
It is hoped the plans will ease bed blocking at a time when hospitals are particularly busy, and also help prevent people ending up in hospital in the first place.
The plan, which comes into effect on October 1, includes recruiting weekend social workers, creating a travelling team to plug staffing gaps and extending provision of mental health services over weekends and in the evening up to 8pm. It comes as NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, has warned that the NHS is dangerously unprepared to deal with extra people falling ill over the winter.
Chris Hopson, NHS Providers’ chief executive, told a national newspaper: “Hospitals this winter will still be too full of people whom we can’t discharge, even though they are medically fit to leave, because of problems with social care. Failure to do so leaves us dangerously short of capacity.
“That means that it could be even worse than last year, when there were far too many patients waiting more than 12 hours on a trolley or in the back of an ambulance to be seen. We were running much greater levels of risk to patient safety than we had had for at least a decade and we don’t want to see that level of risk again.”
But Lancashire County Council hopes that its plan will alleviate these problems, and take the pressure off Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals.
Social services and mental health services will be extended to evenings and weekends.
In addition adult social care hospital and community team workers leave will be restricted in both December and January.
Twelve social work staff will be on duty at hospitals on key days over the Christmas and new year holiday periods and an emergency duty team will cover for emergencies on Christmas Day.
But a report, presented to the Lancashire Health and Welbeing Board yesterday warned that the coming months would “prove additionally challenging for adult social care” due to ongoing delays in transfers of care, the council’s finances and workforce pressures.
Afterward the meeting Karen Partington, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust, declined to comment but committee chairman Coun Geoff Driver said: “It’s absolutely vital we have a plan, it’s equally vital we keep that plan under review as circumstances develop so if we need to change it we do.”