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From bad to worse: Council facing even tougher cuts
Schools, bin collections and libraries could all be in the firing line after forecasts for council cuts nearly doubled in a matter of days.
Brighton and Hove City Council has spent months working towards making savings for the 2013/14 financial year of about £14 million – but this figure has now rocketed to £25 million.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said the situation emerged in a “devastating series” of recent Government announcements
With the Green administration not able to increase council tax by more than 2% without a city-wide referendum, union representatives have warned the latest news had plunged the local authority “into a crisis”.
While detailed plans have not yet been drawn up, unions warned likely proposals are:
- Scrapping of about 250 council posts, mostly through voluntary redundancies, agency and temporary staff cuts
- Cutbacks in “frontline” services, such as bin collections, libraries and care for the elderly
- Reductions to support staff in schools, meaning an end to after-school clubs and teaching assistants
Coun Kitcat told The Argus: “We’re now in a position where we have huge reductions to make.
“This is not just happening in Brighton and Hove. We’re talking about the survival of local government. If you take away 10% of funding every year it does not take too long before there’s nothing left.”
Town hall insiders said the mood in council headquarters in recent days had been a mix between “shellshock and anger”.
Coun Kitcat said the local authority had already identified about £14 million of savings for 2013/14.
But new information from Whitehall means the local authority has just weeks to draw up detailed plans to find an extra £11 million.
Coun Kitcat said: “Details of yet more austerity cuts for the next financial year are still to be fully determined by Government but we do know we won’t be able to raise council tax above 2% without a costly referendum.
"This means we have some very tough choices to make whilst focussing on protecting essential services and providing value for money.”
A further £25 million must also be found for 2014/15.
Mark Turner, of the GMB, said he was “extremely concerned” about the potential consequences.
He added: “We are looking for assurances from the political leadership there will be no compulsory redundancies. If there are then we could be in a very difficult situation. There’s still high senior management costs we still believe need to be addressed.”
Alex Knutsen, of Unison, said he was “appalled”.
He said: “What is clear is that local government has been stuffed by central Government. As Birmingham council said earlier this week, we have to stop thinking about salami slicing and think about what services the council can deliver and what it cannot.
“Everything has already been taken out of back-room services.”
In a message sent to staff yesterday, acting chief executive Catherine Vaughan said: “This is a serious position and we don't have any choice but to face it. It will mean we will have to make some difficult decisions and there will need to be changes in the way we do things.”
But Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “It is irresponsible of Coun Kitcat to be setting hares running at this stage and I suggest that he waits until the Government announces the council’s final settlement before speculating wildly on what might or might not be in it.
“Rather than constantly moaning about his lot he should just get on with the job of identifying the necessary savings to the council’s budget.”